What do we make of the prodigal returns of Robinho, Verón, et al?
Robinho has recently revealed that the loan-return to his boyhood Brazilian team, Santos, required a rebuff of not only Manchester City, but also Barcelona. That Robinho would turn down offers from two of the richest clubs in the world to return to São Paolo is perhaps simply a testament to the extent of his own disgruntled relationship with European football. But I personally hope that Robinho’s move is also a sign of the growing economic strength of South American leagues.
Robinho’s choice was certainly, at least partially a sentimental one, with the added benefit of convenience (as well as climatic considerations?):
I had an offer from Barcelona, but they wanted to bring me in on a transfer and Manchester City didn’t want to sell me. Then they wanted me on a loan deal but it wouldn’t have been good to take my whole family, look for a house and be there only six months. It’s different in Santos, since here I have a house and all the rest.
Having failed to establish himself as Man City’s first-choice striker, Robinho chose his homeland as the place to maintain his fitness and solidify his position in the national team in the lead-up to the World Cup.
In doing so, Robinho added his name to an impressive list of top-tier, world-class players who have shunned European leagues in favor of playing in their homeland. Adriano, Ronaldo, Riquelme, and J.S.Verón (and to a maybe lesser extent, Vagner Love) can all (arguably) be counted among the world’s best players, and are all playing in for South American teams. Verón’s story is particularly nice: after 11 years in Europe, he returned to his boyhood club, Estudiantes de la Plata, and led them to win the Argentinian Apertura in 2006 and the Copa Libertadores in 2009. The 34-year-old midfielder also won the South American Player of the Year award in 2008 and 2009.
It may just be a coincidence that the aforementioned list of heavyweights are all playing back in their native lands, but it is heartening that in a year in which big money has been such a central force in European soccer, the modest economic liquidity of South American leagues can acquire such quality players.
On an absolutely opposite note, it is also somehow great to see erstwhile Boca Juniors mystical forward, the pseudo-Krsna-locked Rodrigo Palacio scoring this diving header for Genoa.
How long until a spat with the manager, lack of good steak in Genoa, and/or the rising financial strength of the Argentinian league drive him back to Buenos Aires?