7 February ~ Despite the disappointment for the player and Man City fans, loaning Robinho back to Santos seems a good fit for all the parties involved. The player has been given a chance to resurrect his season in time to make the Brazil World Cup squad, Santos have picked up one of the world's most expensive players without paying a transfer fee and City have saved a reported £160,000 on their weekly wage bill. Robinho's loan deal was also thought to be a way for City to secure the first refusal on two of Santos' most promising players: Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso.
Ganso, who plays for Brazil's Under-20s, was not so thrilled by the deal, however: "I don't want to play for Manchester City. I'd prefer to play for a big club in Europe such as Milan, Real Madrid or Barcelona." Despite City's project of becoming the "biggest and best club in the world", they are unlikely to be the first choice of any player touted as a future Brazilian superstar. Not having won a trophy in almost 33 years does not help their cause, but neither does their geography. Tellingly, Ganso did not mention Man Utd, Chelsea or Liverpool as prospective "big clubs" he would like to join. For all the Premier League's global coverage, Spanish and Italian football still holds more allure in certain parts of the world.
City's "dream", according to their chief executive Garry Cook, is to become the world's biggest club. This might seem possible in the globalised world of business – where companies like Cook's old employers Nike could claim global dominance – but for football clubs it is not that simple. Leaving aside the issue of how to even begin measuring a club's size – success, wealth, history, attendances and fanbase could all be picked over and rejected as suitable indicators – there is the simple matter of perspective.
For most young players in South America, Real Madrid and Barcelona are held in higher esteem than top Premier League clubs. Even Alex Ferguson, the most one-eyed man in football, recognised the lure of Spain's top clubs when he let Cristiano Ronaldo fulfil his boyhood dream of playing for Real Madrid last summer. Growing up in Portugal, Ronaldo would have been imbued with a sense of Madrid's importance – in the same way that kids in England or South East Asia are now weaned on the big Premier League clubs.
The same point could be made about Roy Keane's move to Celtic. Growing up in southern Ireland, Celtic's history and stature would have been impressed on Keane as much as Man Utd's. Similarly, Robbie Keane's move north will have been viewed more favourably in his homeland than any fair comparison of the two leagues involved should merit. The north of Ireland offers another example – depending on factors far removed from football, fans have very different views on the stature of clubs like Derry City and Linfield. In the end, judging a club's size has as much to with what you see as where you see it from.