Now an event that occurred a decade ago, the purchase of Manchester City by Sheikh Mansour has arguably served to change the face of modern football. The club from the blue half of Manchester is now viewed as one of the world’s best, with a team seemingly cruising to the Premier League title under the expert tutelage of Pep Guardiola.
Robinho’s record-breaking transfer raised eyebrows
Back on 31 August 2008, Robinho was the first player to join what would turn into a revolution, his then record-breaking £32.5 million transfer raising eyebrows the world over. Ten years on, his move to Turkish side Sivasspor is similarly surprising. In 2008, the surprise stemmed from an international superstar moving to a then insignificant English club. Now, however, the surprise comes from the simple fact that Robinho is signing for a club at all, as the Brazilian is a convicted sex offender.
The incident in question occurred back in January 2013, when Robinho was playing for AC Milan. Along with five other men, he is accused of prying the female victim with alcohol before taking part in a gang rape. After almost five years debating the case, the final verdict of the Italian court sided with the accuser, a then 22-year-old woman of Albanian origin, in November of last year.
Unfortunately, due to the minefield that is Italian law, Robinho failed to even turn up to the court, where he was sentenced in absentia to nine years in prison. The reasoning for this is the fact that, should he have turned up, he would probably have been incarcerated, albeit temporarily. Instead, Robinho was in Brazil at the time of sentencing, which meant the court would have had to ask for his extradition; something his homeland does not allow.
He vows to fight conviction
Robinho maintains his innocence, pleading not guilty and vowing to fight the conviction. A post on his Instagram page after the verdict read “We would like to clarify that he has already defended himself against the accusations, affirming that he did not participate in the episode. All legal measures are being taken”.
The prison sentence has been suspended until the appeal is fully complete; a process which could take years, thanks to Robinho being afforded the right to two separate appeals.
Regardless of the player being free to continue his career, the move was undeniably one of the strangest of the recently passed transfer window. Focusing for one moment on the football side of things, this is a player with 100 caps for Brazil and who during his youth was viewed as his country’s next superstar. Then we have the club: an unfashionable team from central Turkey who were only promoted back to the top tier last season and are not known for their wealth.
Disturbingly, Sivasspor fans treated Robinho as a hero
Robinho touched down in Istanbul on 22 January, and despite his delicate legal situation, was greeted like a hero by the amassed Sivasspor fans. On the club website, his shirt is the only one available to buy. This shows how the move is undoubtedly PR motivated. It is not as if Sivasspor needed to sign the player, with Samet Aybaba typically selecting a lone frontman. This is a role usually afforded to Arouna Koné, with the ex-Everton man in decent former since his summer move, netting nine times in 20 appearances.
Robinho’s lack of impact can be seen from his debut, where he replaced Mert Hakan Yandaş for the last 16 minutes of their match at Yeni Malatyaspor. The Brazilian was unable to make much impression as his new side fell to a 1-0 defeat. Last weekend he was also benched, not even making it onto the pitch during the 2-1 victory over Galatasaray. One could point to the lack of action being fitness related, although regardless one has to seriously question Sivasspor’s actions, especially when one considers the amount of negative attention the ultimately innocent Ched Evans received in his search for a new club.
By contrast, this case seems to have caused remarkably little uproar, and it remains to be seen how much impact he will have in Turkey. A contract is in place until summer 2019, where it is highly likely the rape case will still not be concluded. Either way, Robinho has fallen far, and with that nine-year jail sentence hanging over him, the descent may have not even truly begun.