After two seasons on loan with Borussia Dortmund, honing his craft at the top level in one of the best environments, Achraf Hakimi seemed ready to step up to the plate and carve his name into the prestigious Real Madrid starting lineup.
Or so we thought.
Instead, Madrid have decided to strike while the iron is hot and sell their young full back to Inter for a fee of around £36m. It spells the end to Hakimi’s career with Los Blancos, taking many around the club – who had seen him as the future of the club’s right-hand side – by surprise.
This isn’t the first flash sale of a young talent at Real Madrid and it certainly won’t be the last, but Los Blancos could be kicking themselves sooner rather than later in this instance. Their failure to pull the trigger on keeping Hakimi is comparable to WWE failing to let literally any of their NXT talent carry the torch on the main roster, and it’s always a poor decision.
Hakimi will thrive under Antonio Conte at Inter. Serie A is the perfect league for the Moroccan to continue developing with regular game time, and the system Conte plays is ideal for Hakimi’s versatile playbook.
Naturally a full-back, Hakimi is capable of playing on either flank and excels in attacking situations. He has been used mostly as a right-back by Lucien Favre at Borussia Dortmund, but has been deployed as a winger, both left and right. He’s managed nine goals and 10 assists in all competitions this season by flirting between the two roles.
Conte famously plays his football with wing-backs. He won the Premier League during his time at Chelsea doing so, and has got the best out of a number of players by setting up in such a way. To most people’s surprise, Inter signed Ashley Young in January 2020, but if he was going to play his best game anywhere at this stage in his career, it’s in Italy with Conte.
For Hakimi, the script is no different. Despite him and Young being at opposite ends of their football careers, the two will play a similar game for I Nerazzuri next season. Hakimi will likely assume the role as first-choice right wing-back in a 3-4-3 formation, but his versatility means he can swap wings when necessary, or even push on into a more advanced role with tweaks to the shape.
Another quality that Hakimi possesses is his passing. The 21-year-old has averaged 63 passes per game in the 2019/20 Bundesliga season with a success rate of 85%. This output, combined with his shift of pace, will allow him to breeze down the flank in Serie A and become a suitable option in supporting the attack, if he isn’t starting them himself from deep.
So, how does this affect Real Madrid?
Zinedine Zidane’s side have a stacked roster, and Dani Carvajal has consistently been arguably the best right-back in the world for the last several years. However, the Spaniard turns 29 next January and is likely already in the peak of his career. While it might not have been time to axe him from the starting XI just yet, there would’ve been no harm in a little bit of competition for him in the form of Hakimi, as a gradual transition over the course of a season or two.
Keeping Hakimi around would’ve allowed for better rotation and higher competition for places, which spurs the side on to keep improving. Failing that, he would’ve been a more than suitable option playing ahead of Carvajal on the right flank.
Inter have found themselves a bargain in Hakimi, and will hope to keep a hold of his services for as long as they can. His performances could be the final piece in the jigsaw that sees them enter a new era of domination once more, or they could be the catalyst for Florentino Perez to re-sign him for Real in a couple of years time.
Either way, though, Real Madrid have shot themselves in the foot by cashing in on their academy graduate right back so soon, sticking within their comfort zone.
Lionel Messi has been tipped to leave Barcelona in 2021, the result of mounting problems at Camp Nou. The club’s finances are in a mess, there is criticism of the current board and how the club is run, and things only look like they will get worse before they get better.
Messi has often been linked with moves away from Barça at various points in the past, but frustrations at the club’s growing shortcomings lend at least a degree of plausibility to this one.
Does he go down with a sinking ship, wasting the last few precious years of his career? Or does he bite the bullet and move on while he still can?
The clause that would have allowed him to leave for free this summer has now expired, but Messi’s contract is due to expire at the end of next season, potentially making him a free agent in 2021.
He will have just turned 34 by then but there will no shortage of interest.
Some genuinely plausible and others less so, here are seven clubs he could join…
It is common for South American players in Europe to be linked with their boyhood club, often because they usually left very early in their career. In Messi’s case, he made the switch to Barcelona from Newell’s Old Boys in his native Rosario at the age of just 13.
The superstar himself has acknowledged it is a dream of his to play for Newell’s, although just last year he dampened the possibility because it might not be practical for his family.
“I have the dream of being able to play for Newell’s in Argentina, but I don’t know if it’s really going to happen because I have a family that is ahead of my desire,” he told TyC Sports.
“It’s a dream I’ve had since I was little, but I have a family, I have three children, I live in a place that has given me everything and where I am calm and can give my children a spectacular future. We think much more about that than my desire of playing football in Argentina.”
Imagine the controversy and fall out of Luis Figo moving from Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000 and multiply it by 1,000. Then you probably still won’t even be close to what would happen if Messi made the transition from Camp Nou to the Bernabeu.
Real president Florentino Perez was described by Mundo Deportivo back in 2014 as being ‘in love’ with Messi and willing to offer a net annual wage of €25m, plus additional bonuses from adidas.
Real coach Zinedine Zidane has already responded to the exit rumours by saying he doesn’t want to see Messi leave La Liga…but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t stay in Spain and join Los Blancos ?
“I don’t know what will happen but we hope not because he is in this league and we want the best in this league,” Zidane said this week.
Would or could Messi actually do that to Barcelona? It depends how much they p*** him off over the course of the next year. Let’s never forget that Johan Cruyff once joined Ajax’s arch rivals Feyenoord for the sake of proving a point back in the early 1980s.
Paris Saint-Germain’s desperation to win the Champions League would surely make Messi an attractive proposition for the French giants.
PSG infamously snatched Neymar from Barcelona in a world record transfer in 2017, the money from which Barça fairly quickly p***ed up the wall, but have still fallen short on the European stage.
Their ambition has previously known little in the way of limits and a two-year contract, say, with all the cost that would entail, might be worth the gamble for them.
It could also have the effect of reuniting Messi with Neymar. And if Kylian Mbappe also commits his long-term future to PSG, can you imagine having those three in one team?
It was a completely different time, but Inter made a serious attempt to sign Messi from Barcelona back in 2008 when he was on the cusp of becoming the best in the world. That was revealed by former Inter director Marco Branca earlier this year in an interview with Libero.
“Yes, we moved for him but Leo did not want to leave Barcelona,” Branca said of the approach.
Inter have remained linked with Messi in the years since and the possibility surface again in 2019 when Pirelli chief executive Marco Tronchetti Provera namedropped the six-time Ballon d’Or winner as a ‘why not?’ option. Earlier this year, former Inter president Massimo Moratti also said that signing Messi is ‘no forbidden dream’ for the Nerazzurri.
Inter are keen to cement their place back among Europe’s elite after close to a decade in the relative wilderness and are owned by the extraordinarily wealthy Suning group.
If Messi simply wants to be at a better run version of Barcelona, he might not need to look much further than Manchester City, who have distinctly modelled themselves on the Catalans.
It is no coincidence that three former Barça employees run the day-to-day business and football operations at the Etihad Campus in chief executive Ferran Soriano, director of football Txiki Begiristain and head coach Pep Guardiola.
Guardiola made the decision to build his Barça team around Messi in the late 2000s and it propelled them to become arguably best side of all time. City were linked with a move for the Argentine even before Pep arrived in Manchester, but that could strengthen any chance they have.
The commercial potential for any club signing Messi is enormous and that screams ‘Manchester United’. When Nike supplied United kits it was rumoured the company would help fund a deal for Cristiano Ronaldo and the same suggestions have been made about adidas and Messi.
The Old Trafford club were most recently linked with Messi earlier this year when his public disagreement with Barça official Eric Abidal hit the headlines.
United have been burned a few times in recent years when signings big names players who aren’t a good fit – Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Alexis Sanchez – and have worked hard to build a new squad. But how often does the chance to sign one of the greatest players of all time come up?
It has been built into one of the biggest rivalries in sporting history and they spent the best part of a decade diametrically opposed on either side of the Clásico divide in Spain. But maybe, just maybe, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo might one day could play together.
It would be an enormous expense for Juventus, who are rumoured to want to cap salaries for new signings to control costs amid the coronavirus crisis. But clubs will hope that the landscape will be more normal in a year’s time, while there could an adidas element here as well.
Although Ronaldo is still very much attached to Nike, for adidas to have both of the world’s era defining superstars housed at one of their partner clubs would be excellent for business.
Could they actually play together, though, or would it be an overbalanced disaster?
For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!
Sergio Ramos scored his fourth goal in six games as Real Madrid edged Getafe 1-0 to stay in pole position in the La Liga title race.
The Spanish striker – sorry, ‘centre back’ – converted a penalty in his 450th La Liga match for Real late in the second half after Getafe’s Mathias Olivera brought down Dani Carvajal with a stray leg.
Ramos has proved pivotal in Real’s title charge since the resumption of play, looking excellent at the back alongside Raphael Varane – who had to be replaced by Eder Militao early on after taking a whack to the head – while also popping up with vital contributions in the attacking third.
Zinedine Zidane made two changes from the side that beat Espanyol last time out, with Ferland Mendy swapping in for Marcelo and Vinicius Junior replacing Eden Hazard – who was not included in the matchday squad.
Getafe, who have Champions League qualification aspirations of their own, started brightly with Olivera heading straight at Thibaut Courtois before Xabier Etxeita forced another scrambling save from the Belgium international.
It took Real roughly 25 minutes to muster up their first chance, with Vinicius forcing a stop from David Soria with a low drive.
Striker Karim Benzema, who has been in terrific form since football’s hiatus ended, had an unusually quiet game up front, while Wales international Gareth Bale was an unused substitute.
The result sends Los Blancos four points clear at the top of La Liga as Zidane and his side search for their first domestic league title since the 2016/17 season.
Next up for Real is a trip to Europa League qualification contenders Athletic Club on Sunday, with title rivals Barça in action against Villarreal later that evening.
For more from Jude Summerfield, follow him on Twitter!
Attacking midfield is the sexiest yet hardest to define position on the football pitch.
Trying to find similarities between Steven Gerrard, Diego Maradona and Thomas Muller is a challenging task – and yet all three have been considered attacking midfielders at some point in their career.
This elusiveness tells you a great deal about the role. It’s meaning has changed over time, mutating depending on whatever tactical system was in vogue at that point in footballing history.
One thing has remained constant throughout the position’s evolution though. It’s produced some legendary players. Here are some of the very best.
Diego Maradona’s god like genius kick-started the Argentine obsession with the Enganche – a position which roughly corresponds to the attacking midfield role. It also led to him earning quasi-religious devotion from a generation of football fans.
Maradona linked the midfield and attack in ways previously thought unimaginable. His majestic close control and silky footwork terrorised defences in three separate decades and at times he just did not seem human.
During his tumultuous seven year spell with Napoli, he helped the unfashionable club win two Serie A titles and a UEFA Cup, becoming a Naples deity in the process. At international level he won the 1986 World Cup and despite his off-field problems he is still regarded as the prince of people’s hearts in his homeland.
Perhaps the most influential figure in the history of the modern game, Johan Cruyff’s first successful attempt at changing the world came when he was deployed as an attacking midfielder (of sorts) in Rinus Michels’ Ajax team in the 1970s.
At times Cruyff led the line, but he was anything but a conventional centre-forward. The free-thinker darted between the lines with a carefree attitude fitting of his bohemian surroundings in Amsterdam.
Total Football only worked because Cruyff was the complete attacking midfielder, capable of performing all that was required of him with absolute ease.
The most naturally gifted footballer on the planet during the late 1990s and early 2000s, Zinedine Zidane’s first touch was a thing of beauty.
As was his passing. As was his dribbling. As was pretty much everything else about the Frenchman’s technique.
Zidane’s performances were not always consistent at club level or the international stage but even during one of these downturns, a moment of mind-boggling magic was never far away. Case in point, his volley in the 2002 Champions League final. A big goal for the big stage from one of the ultimate big game players.
Prior to being shunned as a disgraced football administrator, Michel Platini lived a previous, more fulfilling life as the best number ten in the world.
It’s easy to forget amid the flurry of corruption allegations that Platini once won three consecutive Ballons d’Or and is easily one of Juventus’ best players of all times.
He also showcased the best individual tournament performance of the modern era during Euro 1984. During the competition Platini bagged a ridiculous nine goals in five games playing at the tip of Michel Hidalgo’s infamous Magic Square as France lifted the trophy.
They will be no missed penalty jokes here. That would do a disservice to one of the great Italian number tens of all time.
Baggio had a rocky relationship with managers who tried to restrict his freedom by shoehorning him into a 4-4-2 and you can understand why. He was a creative genius who played by his own rules and needed to be indulged.
One of the coaches liable of mistreating Baggio was Carlo Ancelotti, who has since admitted that he was crazy to turn down the mulletted playmaker when he was at Parma. Yes, Carlo – that is crazy.
Real Madrid’s obsession with winning the European Cup began at its inception in 1955 and the club lifted the famous trophy in each of the first five seasons of the competition.
At the forefront of this swaggering Los Blancos team was Alfredo di Stefano. A freakishly versatile player, the Argentine could play pretty much anywhere – including in attacking midfield.
Wonderfully two footed and blessed with a delightful technique, Di Stefano was Real’s creative and attacking focal point for many years, knitting the club’s fearsome front line together expertly.
In a pre-Youtube goal compilation world, viewers of the 1982 World Cup must have been completely blown away when they watched Zico play for the first time.
At first glance, this skinny midfielder sporting a messy head of hair looked unassuming alongside the more imperious figures of Socrates, Eder and Falcao in that famous Brazil side.
However, looks can be deceiving and Zico was anything but unassuming. He was nothing short of footballing genius, able to evade the ferocious tackles that often came his way with the balance and poise of a galloping gazelle. A truly joyous player.
If Alfredo Di Stefano weaved Real Madrid’s forward line together, Raymond Kopa provided the creative spark.
Capable of operating anywhere along the forward line but most commonly used in a right forward berth, Kopa’s graceful dribbling and intelligent reading of the game allowed him to regularly fashion out chances for his prolific teammates.
He rightfully earned his place among the game’s greats by scoping the Ballon d’Or in 1958, a trophy that must have looked nice alongside his three European Cup medals.
What Bobby Charlton lacked in hair he more than made up for in footballing ability.
One of a handful of Englishmen to win the Ballon d’Or, Charlton was also the star of England’s 1966 World Cup winning squad, bagging a brace in the semi final to knock out a much fancied Portugal featuring Eusebio.
A wondrously mazy dribbler, the midfielder also excelled at club level as part of Manchester United’s Holy Trinity – alongside Dennis Law and George Best – who helped the club win its first European Cup in 1968. Charlton nodded United in front in the final because, well, of course he did. He’s Bobby Charlton.
Nailing Ruud Gullit down to a single position is like trying to catch a slippery water balloon. It’s hard. That’s what we’re trying to say.
The Dutchman was the archetypal total footballer, just as comfortable leading the line as he was as a libero. His best football probably came when he acted as Marco van Basten’s foil at second striker for Milan.
That particular combination of Dutchmen brought Milan back-to-back European Cup wins, just two of the many honours that Gullit earned during his glittering career.
By this time of year, we’d normally be in the full flow of summer. But everything in 2020 has been pushed back several months by the coronavirus crisis, which means it is only now, as the 2019/20 campaign finally nears its end, that fans are beginning to cast their eye to new kits for next season.
Here’s a rundown of every confirmed and leaked Premier League kit for 2020/21 so far, as well as a handful of others from Europe’s biggest clubs.
Home (leaked): The 2020/21 Arsenal home kit looks as though it will use a darker shade of red than the Gunners are typically used to. There is a graphic pattern, which is currently a common theme in shirt design, while the sleeve cuffs appear unusually large.
Away (leaked): The 2020/21 Arsenal away kit is said to be inspired by the iconic marble halls at the club’s former home at Highbury. The shorts are expected to be maroon, paired with white socks, making it a similar look overall to the 2007/08 away strip.
Third (leaked): Peach/light orange trim is a nice complement to the dark blue base colour of Arsenal’s expected third shirt. The graphic is subtle yet serves to give it a definite wow factor.
Home: They may not even be a Premier League team by next season, but Bournemouth are already wearing their 2020/21 home kit following its launch last month – and it’ll be available to buy on the club’s store.
Home: Chelsea say the herringbone-knit pattern featured on their 2020/21 shirt is inspired by fine London tailoring. It features dark blue trim rather than typical white trim, and is the first Chelsea jersey to feature mobile network Three as the primary sponsor. It’s available from 9 July on Nike’s website.
Away (leaked): Not a great deal is known about Chelsea’s 2020/21 away kit other than its expected colour scheme. It is thought that the main colour will be a light shade of blue, matched with darker blue trim, and likely some sort of design graphic.
Third (leaked): The third kit Chelsea will wear next season incorporates a striped design that no matter how hard you try looks distinctly like something Crystal Palace would wear. The stripes fade out halfway through the jersey, which is arguably more bizarre.
Home (concept): We know that Everton have entered into a new kit deal with cult brand Hummel and we know that car seller Cazoo will be the primary sponsor – and we’ll find out more when it’s released on Friday.
Home (leaked): The new Liverpool home shirt, the first made by Nike following the switch from New Balance, takes things back to the 1990s. The green trim on the V-neck and sleeve cuffs is similar to that which featured on a home kit worn from 1993 to 1995.
Away (leaked): The away kit Liverpool will be wearing for 2020/21 is ‘hyper turquoise’. The striking graphic design is said to have been inspired by the iconic Shankly Gates at Anfield and a release date is expected some time in August.
Goalkeeper (leaked): Jerseys will come in black and yellow for Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker next season, but there is more to the design than simply plain colours. You may not that the overall design is the same as the earlier Chelsea goalkeeper shirt.
Home (leaked): A mosaic design will make up the new 2020/21 Manchester City, with mosaics a distinct part of the modern Manchester art scene. City have had blue home shorts in the past, but they are expected to stay white next season.
Home (leaked): Manchester United’s expected new home shirt is not a dissimilar look to the club’s 2016/17 blue away strip. The patterning breaks up the base colour for a much more bold and interesting design than simply plain red.
Away (leaked): Although it might look black at first glance, United’s rumoured 2020/21 away kit is actually ‘legacy green’. Of the three, shirts the club will use next season, it is expected to be the first to drop because it was originally scheduled for a May release.
Third (leaked): The ‘dazzle camo’ pattern of United’s expected third shirt for next season has had plenty of people talking and will be a new and unique direction. The print actually finds its roots in 20th century naval warfare when ships were painted a similar way as a defence tactic.
Goalkeeper (leaked): United have a few bold and ‘out there’ goalkeeper shirts over the last 10 years, but this rumoured design for 2020/21 might be the most garish of the lot. The graphic pattern under the arms and on the side panels are a bit love/hate.
Home (leaked): This image of the 2020/21 Spurs kit that has been widely circulated online appears to be a counterfeit version of the real expected design. Like most clubs, Spurs will have a graphic design incorporated into the shirt, while yellow returns as a trim colour.
Away (leaked): The expected Spurs away kit for next season is predominantly dark green, featuring pale yellow logos. The rest of the trim will be black, but there is also going to be an element of pink trim to it as well.
Third (leaked): Yellow has been a Spurs colour in the past and will return as the 2020/21 third strip, featuring both yellow shorts and yellow socks in addition to the shirt. The club crest and Nike will be positioned centrally.
Home: West Ham launched their 2020/21 shirt on the club’s 125th anniversary, with a special badge marking the landmark. The actual design, meanwhile, pays tribute to the golden era of the 1960s when Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters were wearing claret and blue – and is available on the club’s store immediately.
Home (leaked): Wolves are expected to adopt a black sleeves look in 2020/21, which would only be the second time they have ever done so. Black sleeves previously appeared on Wolves jersey in 2014/15 and from 1996 to 1998.
Home (leaked): Yellow will return as a prominent trim colour to Barcelona’s 2020/21 home shirt. The thick neckline in particular brings back memories of the 2010/11 season when Barça could lay genuine claim to being the greatest team of all time.
Third (leaked): A pink shirt with black and green trim will be part of Barcelona’s wardrobe in 2020/21. The shirt is expected to be worn with black short, and matched with green socks that feature the pink trim. It’s not a combination that seems to obviously go together.
Home (leaked): Pink trim looks set to adorn the new Real Madrid 2020/21 home kit. The V-neck design looks like a throwback from adidas to the early 1990s, while the sleeve cuffs, not visible in this image, are expected, to have a pink and black pattern.
Away (leaked): Real had a vivid pink change strip in 2014/15 and a coral third kit last season. On both occasions the trim colour was white, but 2020/21’s pink kit will feature navy blue trim instead. The design itself is actually very plain and simple, leaving the colour to do the work.
Third (leaked): Real will stick with the pink theme for the third kit as well, serving as trim for an otherwise black design. Intrigue comes from quite a distinctive graphic.
Home (leaked): Atletico Madrid’s trademark stripes look like they will be given a very traditional makeover for 2020/21. The collar and button are a distinct throwback to the past and it is noticeably a darker shade of blue trim and recent times.
Home (leaked): Gold is expected to be the trim colour of choice for Juventus in 2020/21. The home shirt also moves away from having very bold and defined black and white to more of an abstract look that makes seem a bit more raw and artistic.
Away (leaked): The away kit Juventus are expected to wear in 2020/21 appears much plainer and simpler, although there is a little bit of flair in the sleeve cuffs to add something else to it.
Third (leaked): ‘Artistic’ doesn’t quite cut it to describe Juve’s expected third jersey. The striking combination of orange and black is a complementing contrast that may even have the effect of players appearing as a blur as they run.
Home: The new 2020/21 shirt swaps Inter’s traditional stripes for wavy zigzags to bring a fresh perspective to a classic look. It is inspired by the city of Milan and design movement that developed and thrived there in the 1980s – and is available on Nike’s website now.
Away (leaked): Inter seems to be really going for it in 2020/21 and will definitely get noticed every time they walk onto the pitch. There is no obvious symmetry to the colour of the lines on the white background, although on closer inspection you can tell they alternate.
Third (leaked): Is this the ultimate throwback? The hooped Inter jersey from the Ronaldo years could be about to make a comeback more than 20 years on. Pictures of the Brazilian superstar wearing a kit like this are iconic.
Home: Bayern have brought back a classic and simple design for 2020/21. Fans have fought a campaign for home colours to be red and white only and the club listened, which means navy blue may never be seen on a Bayern home shirt again. Catch it now on adidas’ website.
Home: Dortmund’s electrifying new home shirt has caused a stir on social media since its launch. It is also the first to feature new sponsor 1&1 on the front – and is available now from the club’s online store.
For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!
We all love a footballing enigma. Someone who you can’t quite wrap your head around. Is he actually good? Is he overrated? Is everything going against him? Robinho slots into that mould rather fluidly.
However, at the turn of the century, everything was going for him.
Robinho was billed not only as one of the greatest prospects of his era, but indeed one of the most exciting ever. That can, admittedly, get quite tiresome. We’re used to the normal chitter chatter of ‘[insert player] being the next [insert top footballer]’, so such comparisons are usually taking with fistful of salt.
In the case of this particular prodigy, being compared to Pele was not just media hype, it was the words of the great man himself. Pele even paved the way for Robinho to ‘surpass’ him on the footballing stage. High praise, if not the highest praise.
81 goals in 180 Santos appearances were a clear indication of his talents, so too was helping fire the club to their first league title since the days of, well, Pele.
As is the normal career path of Brazilian youngsters, La Liga beckoned. Moreover, Real Madrid beckoned.
Seen as the future of Brazilian football at the time, it was an aspiration Los Blancos were in line with, hence why they offered him the legendary number ten shirt made vacant by the recently departed Luis Figo.
The early indicators were that the €24m deal was money very well spent. His debut campaign saw him rack up 51 appearances, scoring 12 goals and notching nine assists, and the positivity surrounding this bright young forward appeared to be justified.
Successive La Liga titles followed in 2007 and 2008, but despite hitting decent figures in both those seasons, inconsistency was Robinho’s major downfall. The weight of expectation was so large, that he was almost destined to never match those lofty ambitions, and a change of scenery followed.
Ah, no, that’s wrong. He thought it was Chelsea, but it was actually Manchester City who made him the fifth most expensive player in the world. Easy mistake to make, that.
But seriously, he did actually say that to a journalist upon signing. Woops.
Becoming the marquee signing of the new Abu Dhabi United Group era – he signed on the very same day the takeover took place – his time in England wasn’t exactly fruitful. He did win over the locals even before kicking a ball, though, regularly taking the bus into the city centre to go shopping with his girlfriend.
He may have been well-liked to begin with, but just like at Madrid, he struggled for consistency – even if 14 Premier League goals was a credible return in his debut campaign. A perceived lack of motivation prompted supporters to turn, and he was shipped out on loan to Santos 18 months later.
A permanent move to AC Milan followed that summer, as did a Serie A title. It finally looked as if the true Robinho had returned. His 14 league goals were instrumental in their success, but that form was never sustained. The goals started drying up in the three campaigns to follow, as did all the hype surrounding Pele’s supposed second coming.
Allegations were being made about his off-field attitude and professionalism, with claims of all-night parties in the build up to matches and lavish spending casting a dark cloud over this once bright starlet.
He returned to Brazil, then moved to China, then back to Brazil and then to Turkey, where he’s been since 2017.
Yet at a time where Robinho was fading out of the limelight, he was thrust straight back into in 2017 when he was convicted of taking part in the gang rape of a women in Milan in 2013 and sentenced to nine years in jail.
Since Brazil does not allow the extradition of its citizens – the ruling occurred while he was playing in Brazil – and with appeals over the decision and reports to be filed among other legal mumbo jumbo, Robinho avoided and will continue to avoid prison until roughly 2022.
Robinho was supposed to be Pele’s successor, the new champion in Brazilian football and the best player in the world. Precious little went to plan, and this taint on his career and character proved a sad and indefensible indictment on the world’s new ‘superstar’
After all of that, we’re taken to Turkey. More specifically, Sivasspor and Istanbul Basaksehir.
At this point he was 33 years old and moving to the Super Lig looked like being the final roll of the dice. A final few years’ salary in the bank while his reputation and career dwindled away.
In total he’s played 68 matches in Turkish football, scoring 16 goals, with next to nobody – myself included – even knowing he was still playing football at all.
Robinho was given his chances. At 19, he’d earned them, but not taking the hand life had dealt him and using it to its full potential in Spain, England and Italy proved his footballing undoing. Brazilian legends before him such as Ronaldinho and Rivaldo maintained steady careers and played well into the latter years of their profession, but Robinho was not a scratch on his countrymen.
He still remains an enigma in many ways. Did he peak way too soon? Did fortune favour the São Vicente born forward? Or were the clubs and people he worked for fooled by the reputation bestowed upon him? We’ll likely never know.
Indeed, the curious case of Robinho.
For more from Ross Kennerley, follow him on Twitter!
Real Madrid have announced that their merger with Club Deportivo Tacón has been ratified, meaning the club will have a women’s team for the first time during the 2020/21 season.
Los Blancos began investing in Tacón at the start of the 2019/20 campaign, but the Madrid based side will now be merged and a new Real Madrid Women’s side will be formed next term.
The club announced the news in a statement published on its website.
“Real Madrid CF communicates that it has sent the Royal Spanish Football Federation the corresponding documentation to make effective the merger by absorption of the Club Deportivo Tacón, for women’s football, as approved by the Extraordinary General Assembly of Committed Members held on 15 September 2019,” the press release read.
“The Royal Spanish Football Federation has informed us that said documentation is correct, so the merger will be effective when the current 2019-20 football season is definitively terminated.
“Real Madrid will play the women’s soccer competitions from the next 2020-21 season, with Ciudad Real Madrid hosting their matches and training sessions.
“Likewise, our women’s soccer academy will be made up of the Senior, Youth and Cadet teams. A quarry structure that will allow us to remain faithful to our philosophy of detecting, training and developing young talents. Our teams will also play their respective competitions starting next season 2020/21.
“Real Madrid is looking forward to this new challenge with the commitment of promoting the promotion of women’s football and contributing to its development and growth in our society.”
Real will be hoping that the merger improves results on the pitch. Despite considerable investment, Tacón struggled this season, losing to de facto Clásico rivals Barcelona heavily and eventually finishing 10th place in the Primera Iberdrola.
Real Madrid have essentially been told to look elsewhere in the transfer market by French side Rennes, with the club’s sporting director insisting €80m would not be enough to sign coveted starlet Eduardo Camavinga.
The 17-year-old has caught the eye in Ligue 1 this season, dazzling in the centre of the park. Camavinga had made 25 league appearances for Rennes this year until the campaign was brought to a premature end by the coronavirus outbreak.
But despite the current lack of football in France, the starlet remains firmly in Madrid’s plans for this summer, with Zinedine Zidane keen to add his national compatriot to the Spanish giants’ squad.
Rennes are not having any of it, though. In fact, the club’s sporting director Florian Maurice told RMC Sport that they will not even entertain an offer of €80m for their prodigy, hoping to ‘keep developing’ him into an elite player, as cited by Mundo Deportivo.
“Camavinga’s departure has not been spoken about,” Maurice said.
“There has never been a real interest. Since my arrival, I was clear that Camavinga would be included in the project.
“If Real Madrid offer €80m for him as is being talked about, the answer is no. We want him to stay so that he keeps developing at Rennes.”
Maurice also stressed that Rennes see the youngster as ‘part of the project for the coming season’, further dampening rumours of Madrid’s interest in the midfielder.
“For me it is clear, this player must be part of the project for the coming season. We want to continue with this player. It is important for him that he continues with Stade Rennais. He’s a very good boy, a great player.”
However, the sporting director did admit that the starlet ‘has ambition’ and may fancy a move away, but he remains ‘under contract’ with Rennes for the time being, and his immediate future remains with his current employers.
“It should be noted that the player has ambition, perhaps he has the desire to go play elsewhere, I will listen to him, but at the moment he is under contract at Stade Rennais and we will see calmly how the transfer market works.”
Real Sociedad are eager to bring in Japanese sensation Takefusa Kubo on loan next season, with Real Madrid intrigued by the possibility.
Kubo joined Los Blancos from FC Tokyo on a free transfer last summer and has impressed out on loan at La Liga relegation-battlers Mallorca this term, making six goal contributions in 29 appearances.
Real’s initial plan for Kubo was for him to play with their reserve squad – Castilla – but they changed their minds and instead sent him on loan to the Balearics.
And Kubo’s expected to have plenty of suitors when he returns from his current temporary spell. In fact, AS understand at least 29 clubs have taken an interested in acquiring the 19-year-old on loan next season. Paris Saint-Germain, meanwhile, are determined to sign him permanently, although Real have already explained they won’t sell him under any conditions.
AS have also reported that Sociedad’s offer is the one that appeals to Los Blancos the most at this point. Madrid are keen to move him on to the next stage of development and to a team fighting for European football.
A slump in form since the restart, however, has left La Real in seventh and seven points adrift of the top four.
Nevertheless, the two clubs are said to have an excellent relationship and following Martin Odegaard’s success in San Sebastian this term, Real believe Sociedad would be a great fit for Kubo – with their progressive playing style ideal for the Japanese youngster’s development.
However, the decision is ultimately Kubo’s and he’s set to have plenty of offers to pick from, including ten from Spanish clubs.
In terms of possibilities outside of Spain, Milan may well be the pick of the bunch. The Rossoneri’s Chief Football Officer Zvonimir Boban has already travelled to Madrid to request a loan deal for the teenager, but Kubo currently doesn’t have any intention to move to Italy.
Five wins from five since their return. Title rivals in turmoil. Things are looking good for Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid right now.
Their hard-fought 1-0 win over Espanyol on Sunday – thanks to Karim Benzema’s Guti-esque brilliance to tee up Casemiro for the winner – meant Los Blancos took full advantage of Barcelona’s slip-up at Celta Vigo the previous day.
The weekend’s victory means they currently sit two points ahead of La Blaugrana at the La Liga summit with just six games remaining.
However, a tough test lies ahead for Zidane’s men in the form of Jose Bordalas’ physical and intense Getafe side who, despite struggling since the return, picked up a massive three points against Real Sociedad at the weekend – continuing their own quest for Champions League qualification.
It may prove to be Real’s trickiest contest since La Liga’s resumption, and here’s the starting XI Zidane should go with for it.
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – The Belgian’s bounced back in style this term after a tricky debut campaign. He’s kept a league-high 15 clean sheets and allowed just two strikes past him in five games following the resumption. A shoo-in for the remainder of the campaign.
Dani Carvajal (RB) – Achraf Hakimi’s recent departure to Inter not only proves Carvajal is Real Madrid’s right-back of the present, but the future as well. His form has certainly come into question at times this term – most notably in the Champions League clash against Manchester City – but the Spaniard’s continued to show off his reliability since the restart.
Sergio Ramos (CB) – Ramos has shone at both ends of the pitch since Spanish football returned – helping Real maintain their mightily impressive defensive record all while scoring three times at the other end. On this occasion, he’ll have a confident Jaime Mata to contend with after the Getafe forward struck a match-winning brace against Sociedad last time out.
Raphael Varane (CB) – Arguably the best centre-back in football not called Virgil van Dijk. Next.
Ferland Mendy (LB) – After serving his one-game suspension last time out, Mendy’s back in contention for Thursday night’s encounter. We’ve only seen glimmers of his supreme talent down the Real left this term, but he should get a chance to showcase his stuff from the off in this one.
Casemiro (DM) – The key spoke in Zidane’s wheel. The importance of the Brazilian in this Real side can’t be underestimated and if he’s available, he’s the first name on the team sheet – with Karim Benzema a close second. The match-winner last time out, Casemiro will be crucial in shunning Getafe’s verticality in possession this time around.
Luka Modric (CM) – The Croatian’s Ballon d’Or powers are certainly starting to wane in the Spanish capital after some vintage displays in years gone by. Who knows, these final six games may prove to be Modric’s last hurrah in Madrid. Nevertheless, after missing the Espanyol clash due to suspension, Zidane will be keen to utilise a refreshed Modric on Thursday.
Toni Kroos (CM) – That’s right, the imperious triumvirate are back! Alongside Modric as Zidane ‘eights’, the pair will have to be alert to Bordalas’ fierce counter-press, while the German will be the man to penetrate the Azuolones typically compact defensive lines. Zidane’s metronome has also enjoyed a productive campaign in the final third this season, scoring four times and assisting a further five.
Gareth Bale (RW) – Come on Zizou, give Gareth a chance! The Welshman has notched just 100 minutes of action since the restart and looked bright in his only start against Mallorca. However, with Isco struggling last time out and Rodrygo out of favour, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bale named in Zidane’s starting XI for this one.
Karim Benzema (ST) – The Frenchman may well be La Liga’s top performer this season, even superior to the greatest to ever do it. He’s been immense and his majestic form has resumed following the restart. No player has racked up more minutes than Benzema (2652) in La Liga this term.
Vinicius Junior (LW) – A major winner of La Liga’s resumption thus far, Vinicius should re-enter the fold after starring in Real’s victories over Sociedad and Mallorca. He enjoyed just a 26-minute cameo last time out but will likely displace Eden Hazard once more after the Belgian’s muted display in Catalonia.