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 By Simon Curtis

The signing of Robinho changed Manchester City forever

It will not just have been Manchester City fans who were surprised to see who was the man of the match during Brazil's win over Venezuela on Sunday, a win that secured their passage to the knockout rounds of the Copa America.

At the ripe old age of 31, Robson de Souza, aka Robinho, was instrumental in ensuring his country's continued presence at South America's prestige tournament.

A career that has seemed on a long, winding and slightly unpredictable path -- much like one of the player's trademark ambling slaloms down the wing -- has taken him from his beloved Santos, around the football globe and back again.

His time at City, without being the moment of his greatest achievement, may well go down as the moment he attracted the most attention.

Cast your minds back to the summer of 2008. City, a club with a rich past and a recent history of underachievement, were approaching the end of the transfer window in a state of some agitation.

There was nothing new in this and, therefore, nothing in particular for the fans to get excited about. The club, under the stewardship of ex-Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra, was enjoying a period of relative calm after the turbulent years between 1996 and 2001, when a yo-yo policy between the leagues left everyone feeling dizzy and disoriented.

Still, Shinawatra's private financial problems were beginning to show up on the radar of certain renowned international law enforcement agencies and this in turn was beginning to set off some alarm bells in both Manchester and Bangkok.

What happened next will be forever etched in the memories of City supporters on all four sides of the planet.

On Sept. 1, 2008, the English transfer window was preparing to slide itself gently shut, when news broke that Shinawatra -- thinking it perhaps wise to concentrate on clearing his name -- had sold the club, as you might say, out of the blue, to an hitherto unknown entity calling itself somewhat inappropriately ADUG, or Abu Dhabi United Group.

Unthinkably, dramatically, this was a mere soupcon on a day that left everybody staggered at the pace of developments. Not only was it apparent that City were under new ownership, making them in the flick of a stock exchange switch the "richest club in the world," but they still had four hours of deadline day to flex their muscles. And that is exactly what they did. First, they put in a cheeky bid to upset Manchester United's attempt to bring Dimitar Berbatov north from Tottenham, before their covetous glances landed on Robinho, the slightly built star of Real Madrid's twinkling galaxy.

Robinho on his Man City debut in 2008.

Living those few strange hours as a Manchester City follower beat all of the weird and wonderful things the club had already put its loyal supporters through. Suddenly, City had lodged a record £32 million bid for a player. Rumoured to be on his way to Chelsea, where the London club were already posting shots of his new dark blue named shirt on the Internet, he was instead diverted to Manchester, where -- looking a little sheepish and surprised -- he was glad-handed by an equally shell-shocked City manager Mark Hughes.

Meanwhile, City's intervention in matters across Manchester forced Berbatov's price through the roof as well, giving United a taste of what was to come. All of a sudden there was another club who could rival United and Chelsea for all of the rich pickings.

That Robinho's career at City never really took off and probably found its high point in his debut free kick against Chelsea was, in the greater scheme of things, neither here nor there. The little Brazilian will be long remembered as a skilful and talented addition to City's nascent squad of superstars, but his part in the explosion of things at City will be remembered far longer.

City have since grown into the club we see before us today: double Premier League winners, FA Cup winners, League Cup winners, Community Shield winners and perpetual Champions League participants.

The place Robinho called home for a year and a half is now the playground of global football icons like Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure. Who knows what this summer's transfer window will bring in Manchester?

What is certain, whether it be Paul Pogba, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Jack Wilshere or any of the other glittering stars widely mentioned, none will overshadow the day in 2008 when unheralded, bedraggled old Manchester City announced they had signed a Real Madrid star from under the noses of English football's elite.


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