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Few tears shed for Elano's Eastlands exit

Amid the steady flow of big-money signings to Manchester City this summer, it's hardly surprising that those being shipped out in the opposite direction have warranted little attention.

Danny Mills was still picking up his pay packet until July 1, although only City's older fans are able to remember the last time he appeared in a blue shirt (some thought it was at Maine Road under Malcolm Allison). Other players, like Darius Vassell and Didi Hamann, had their bags packed the moment the final whistle sounded on last season.

But there was one departure that could prove to be as significant as any new arrival. One that has signalled the determination of Mark Hughes to stamp his authority on a squad of multi-millionaires, and could have a major impact on the future of City's most expensive signing of all.

On the face of it, Elano Blumer's move to Galatasaray at the end of July deserved the lack of attention it received. City recouped the £8m they had paid Shakhtar Donetsk for the Brazilian, and his farewell became a footnote to stories of Hughes pursuing new, more exciting targets.

Those City fans who turned misty-eyed at having to say goodbye to his occasional moments of brilliance were soothed by the thought of who might take his place, safe in the knowledge that the days when Sven Goran Eriksson ran blindfolded through the transfer market at closing time two years ago, chucking Thaksin Shinawatra's money at players like Elano, were a thing of the past.

Hughes, for his part, wished him all the best and spoke of the need for 'Ela' to be playing first-team football in World Cup year.

But the Welshman's goodwill masked a genuine concern that he and his back-room staff decided had to be addressed as a matter of urgency midway through last season.

Because while Glauber Berti could offer Robinho a friendly face and familiar conversation about home (surely that was the only reason City gave him a one-year deal), Elano's relationship with City's £32.5m British record signing was perceived to be having an increasingly poisonous effect on the camp.

The two Brazil teammates had quickly become inseparable. If one walked through the door, you knew the other was right behind him. Certainly it was no surprise that Robinho moved his family into a £2m converted barn close to Elano in the Cheshire countryside south of Manchester.

There is nothing wrong in that, of course. Every club has its cliques. But Robinho's massive transfer fee meant he was a special case, and the friendship with Elano was causing problems.

Both players went downhill after a promising start. Robinho scored 12 goals before the turn of the year only to hit a barren run that lasted nearly four months, while Elano became an increasingly malevolent presence about the place.

To make matters worse, there was growing resentment among the rest of the squad that the pair were slacking in training. Craig Bellamy was said to be only too happy to make that point following his arrival in the January transfer window - ironically signing on the same day, Robinho's City career reached its lowest ebb when he left the club's training camp in Tenerife for an unauthorised trip home to South America.

By the time the two Brazilians rediscovered their form in April, with both scoring in wins over West Brom and Blackburn after Elano produced an inspired performance in a glorious UEFA Cup exit to Hamburg, it was too late.

Hughes had already decided that the key to getting the best out of Robinho lay in eradicating the negative influence of his countryman. Once the manager survived his own mid-season crisis and received the backing of Sheikh Mansour and chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak that he would stay in charge, Elano's days were numbered.

If Hughes could have sent him further afield than Turkey, he probably would have done. Possibly even as far as the frozen industrial wastelands of Ukraine, from where Sven had rescued him in the summer of 2007.

Elano and his wife Alexandra are said to be dreading the move, and who can blame them? Having seen pictures of Vassell being mobbed out of sight at the airport following his move from City to Ankaragucu, they fear for their privacy after life in leafy Cheshire. After all, if the Turks are prepared to hero worship Vassell, heaven knows what they have in store for a Brazilian international like Elano.

Hughes is satisfied he has asserted his authority, but with big characters like Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez and Kolo Toure joining the likes of Bellamy and Robinho, he will be aware of the need to keep a tighter rein on his squad this time. It is why he tried so hard to sign John Terry, a man he admires as much for his leadership qualities as his ability on the pitch.

At least Robinho has another chance. An opportunity to forge a better relationship with his teammates, and help City achieve their ambitions after the Arabs bankrolled another spending spree in excess of £100m this summer.

If he can produce the form he showed at the beginning and end of last season, and maintain it over the course of the new campaign, Hughes will no doubt view the decision to send his other half to Turkey as a very good piece of business.


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