File: Veteran Brazilian striker Robinho. Pic: DOUGLAS MAGNO / AFP
PARIS - Few players encapsulate the idea of wasted potential like Robinho, once one of the world&39;s most sought-after talents but now far from the spotlight and mired in scandal after a conviction for gang rape.
The Brazilian attacker, capped 100 times for Brazil, had the world at his feet and Real Madrid chasing his signature in 2005 after starring in two Brazilian Serie A title wins with Santos.
His stock kept rising after moving to Spain, where he won two La Liga titles with Real before turning 25.
Now 33 and back in Brazil after frittering away his career, Robinho hit a new low on Thursday when he was sentenced in absentia to nine years in prison by an Italian court for taking part in the rape of a 22-year-old woman in 2013, while still an AC Milan player.
Robinho is appealing the decision and a statement on his Instagram profile said "he has defended himself against these accusations and stated that he played no role in this incident. All legal measures have already been taken."
Should Robinho&39;s conviction stand after the second trial, he will be able to appeal a second time before a final verdict is reached. The sentence is on hold pending the appeal.
- Statement signing -
Back in 2008, fresh from his second straight Spanish title, Robinho was so highly thought of that Manchester City flexed all their new financial muscle on the day the Abu Dhabi United Group took over the club, shelling out a British transfer record fee of £32.5 million (40 million euros at the rates of the time) late on transfer deadline day and snatching him from under Chelsea&39;s noses.
The move was a statement of intent from City, and happened so swiftly that when asked about the move Robinho mixed up his new club with his former suitors.
"On the last day, Chelsea made a great proposal and I accepted," he said when asked about the sudden volte face.
"You mean Manchester, right?" asked a reporter, to which Robinho replied: "Yeah, Manchester, sorry!"
The transfer signalled the beginning of Robinho&39;s decline. Despite City&39;s new-found wealth and his considerable talent, the Brazilian won nothing in two years in Manchester and failed to justify his transfer fee, despite showing flashes of his ability in his first season.
After a second injury-hit campaign that saw him make just 10 Premier League appearances and score no league goals, City gave up on Robinho having just signed David Silva, and after a brief return to Santos he was left looking for a club.
A decent World Cup in South Africa, which was curtailed by the Netherlands in the quarter finals despite Robinho scoring the opener against the Dutch, attracted the attentions of AC Milan, where again he had a good first season, scoring 14 goals as Milan won their first Scudetto in seven years, and their last.
However as at City, it was a case of diminishing returns in Italy, as he failed to reach double figures again over the next three seasons and a further 76 Serie A appearances.
After leaving in 2014, still only 30, he flitted between Brazil and China, winning the 2015 Chinese Super League with Guangzhou Evergrande after a year back at Santos, before returning to Brazil again with current club Atletico Mineiro.
That Scudetto at Milan is the only major trophy Robinho has won since leaving Madrid, the coldest statistic of a career that promised much but has delivered very little.