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Robinho is back at Santos after his European misadventure

“I really expected Robinho to become the best player in the world,” said former Santos winger Edu. “But, unfortunately, along with a lot of people, I was wrong. He’s coming back to Brazilian football at a moment when his prestige is low.”

Even so, there was a warm welcome for him back at Santos, where he made his name between 2002 and 2005. Most fans seem pleased to have him back and are prepared to forgive the sulk act – by now well known to Europeans – that he threw in order to force the club to sell him to Real Madrid.

His six-month loan to Santos would clearly seem to be a bid to increase his visibility in the run-up to this summer’s World Cup, but he is just one of the big names that have returned to Brazil recently – along with Ronaldo, Adriano and Fred, the Selecao’s entire strike force from the 2006 World Cup is now back in Brazil.

Some positive trends are clearly contributing to this movement, with the clubs’ marketing departments becoming increasingly professional in bringing sponsors on board to pay the wages of star players. With the currency strong, the economy growing and the clubs offering a connection to the country’s huge internal market, deals of this type have become viable.

But there is a downside to the return of Robinho. High profile Sao Paulo director Marco Aurelio Cunha points out that the comeback deals are either “a short term strategy or an option at the end of a career”. For the foreseeable future the movement will still be in the other direction, with Brazilian players joining European clubs. And in this light, the problems Robinho has experienced establishing himself in Europe – and the immature way in which he appears to have handled them – are a cause for concern. This latest case of an expensive Brazilian acquisition seemingly unwilling to fight for his first-team place will surely make the Europeans more wary of parting with their money when they cast their eye on the country’s young prospects, and with good reason.

“Lots of Brazilian players can’t cope with the difficulties they face abroad,” says Vasco da Gama director Rodrigo Caetano. “After a year they’re itching to come back – because of the World Cup, or problems of adaptation. This is bad for the market. After all, our clubs need to sell to survive. We need to re-educate our young players, and prepare them properly for the move abroad.”

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