Manchester City’s Brazilian dream was rapidly taking on a nightmarish tinge on Tuesday as the collapse of the club’s bid to sign Kaka was followed by confirmation that Robinho had walked out of a club training camp.
City Chief Executive Garry Cook confirmed that the star striker had left City’s base on the Spanish island of Tenerife although the club refused to comment on reports that he was headed for Brazil following a furious bust-up with manager Mark Hughes.
“I do know Robinho is not at the training centre in Tenerife,” said Cook, describing the player’s conduct as a “breach of club discipline”.
According to media reports, the row between Hughes and Robinho came after the manager reneged on a promise to allow the forward to go to Brazil to celebrate his 25th birthday on January 25.
City broke the British transfer record when they paid 32.5 million pounds to bring Robinho from Real Madrid last August and the striker has endeared himself to the Eastlands faithful with 12 goals since his arrival and some stunning displays.
But his exit could not have been more badly timed with City reeling from Kaka’s decision to turn down the chance to join his Brazil team-mate on a weekly wage of 500,000 pounds in a deal that would have netted AC Milan more than 100 million euros.
The planned acquisition of Kaka was the centrepiece of City owner Sheikh Mansour’s plan to transform the club into one of the leading forces in European football.
That strategy now lies in tatters with City fans who had dreamed of watching the former World Player of the Year carve open opposition defences forced to settle instead for Craig Bellamy — signed from West Ham on Monday.
Kaka delighted Milan’s fans on Monday night when he appeared at a window of his flat in the city, kissed the badge on his number 22 shirt and confirmed that he was staying.
“I have listened to my heart as many people advised me to do,” Kaka said. “Milan had never considered any offer for me in the past. This time it was different and I had to think about it and then I decided to stay.”
Milan’s owner, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, claimed the club was delighted with a decision that proved “money cannot buy everything.”
Cook however accused Berluconi and the rest of the Milan hierarchy of hypocrisy, claiming they had effectively scuttled a deal that they had been desperate to do.
“They bottled it, in my opinion,” Cook said. “The player was clearly for sale.”
City’s chief executive said he had been negotiating for weeks with Milan under the cloak of a confidentiality agreement which was intended to prevent the discussions becoming public before a sale was wrapped up.
“We had gone through a three or four-stage process in which Milan made it quite clear Kaka was for sale and we made it clear we intended to bring him to Manchester City.
“As we got to the next stage there were questions they could not answer and I think the political and public pressure made them change their conditions.
“We never even met the player. We met his representative, his father, but we had discussed commercial terms only.”
Whatever the real reasons for him staying in Milan, Kaka’s decision will inevitably have an impact on City’s credibility in the transfer market and Cook could not hide his bitterness.
“The agenda we thought we were on was about Kaka coming on a journey with this club but at the end the only journey they were on was a fiscal one,” he said.
“It would have been great to have him with us but what got in the way was the behaviour of AC Milan and I think they bottled it.
“We got to talk to Kaka’s father. His father said he was very interested in the project and we talked about humanitarian potential factors but when we got into discussions those issues took a back seat and financial demands came to the fore.”
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