Tuesday, March 20, 2007

One to Watch: Robinho

One of my favorite clubs, Real Madrid, played and won a game this weekend, 2-0 against bottom-feeders Gimnastic. Aside from the sheer rarity of Real actually winning a game, (their first in the last four matches) the game was otherwise a rather standard Real Madrid affair: lackluster defense, disinterested stars, and blown scoring chances. Raul, Cassano, Cannavaro and the rest all seemed completely indifferent to what happened on the field.

Real Madrid won the game because at the start of the second half coach Fabio Capello replaced the overweight and deadweight Antonio Cassano with the Brazilian spark-plug Robinho. Robinho immediately scored a sweet goal off a rebound, hit a laser off the post, was the direct cause of his opponents conceding an own goal, and hit two other fine shots that needed to be saved by the keeper. In other words, he turned the game around, effectively being the only decent player on the field for Madrid.

Robinho has long been an intriguing player. He was born in São Vicente in 1984 and was playing with Brazilian superclub Santos by the time he was seventeen. The kidnapping of his mother (an all-to-common experience in Brazil) hastened his exit from South America, and thus before the 2005 season he signed with Real.

Robinho has not been without his critics at Real. Some say he is to long on the ball, and too prone to trickery, while others say he dives. His defense is questionable at times and he does seem to drift in and out of games.

Still, Robinho must be considered one of the best young players in the world. There is, perhaps, no one better on the ball in the world save Christiano Ronaldo. He constantly attacks the goal, is a good passer, and isn’t afraid of a long-range shot. He is also improving: his passing is better than last year and commentators have noted that he seems to have cut out the diving.

Robinho is a young man to build a team around, but Fabio Capello disagrees. (Note that Robinho didn’t start this weekend.) The young player has made noise that he wishes to be transferred if he does not start getting more playing time, but we will have to see what occurs since Capello himself will likely be gone at the end of the season. In the meantime, Arsenal, Spurs, and a host of other big clubs have been liked to the young man. It will be interesting to see how he, and the situation, develops.

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