Real Madrid, Brazil struggle for Robinho

Real Madrid striker Robinho is at the center of a struggle between the Spanish club and the Brazilian soccer confederation.

updated: June 14, 2007 14:26 IST
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Rio de Janeiro:

Real Madrid striker Robinho is at the center of a struggle between the Spanish club and the Brazilian soccer confederation, which both want the player for competitions they consider essential.

Brazilian national team manager Dunga has summoned Robinho for the Copa America, the South American nations championship that begins June 26 in Venezuela. The team was to assemble on Tuesday at its training camp in Teresopolis, near Rio, to prepare for its June 27 opener against Mexico.

FIFA regulations require clubs to release players 14 days prior to the start of a final competition of a major tournament, such as the Copa America, meaning Madrid was supposed to have returned Robinho on Tuesday.

But the Spanish side wants its striker for the season's finale on Sunday against Real Mallorca, which will decide the league crown. Real Madrid is tied with FC Barcelona on 73 points and a victory on Sunday would guarantee a record 30th Spanish title thanks to its head-to-head results this season against its rival.

One of only five World Cup veterans recalled to the rebuilding Brazil squad, the CBF has refused to excuse Robinho for Sunday's Spanish league finale.

FIFA reportedly could strip Real Madrid of the points it could earn from its match against Real Mallorca if it insists on playing Robinho despite Brazil's objection.

Robinho is one of the few familiar faces left on the national team. World Cup veterans Kaka and Ronaldinho asked to be excused to recover from the European league season. Goalkeeper Dida and striker Adriano also were left off, and veteran midfielder Ze Roberto quit Santos and the national team last week.

Dunga is rebuilding the squad after Brazil was eliminated in the quarterfinals by France at last year's World Cup. But many of the new faces on the team like Josue, Afonso and Naldo are virtually unknown to many Brazilians and have little or no experience on the national team.

Robinho's agent, Wagner Ribeiro, said his client was afraid the confederation would blame him for failing to report.

"Robinho is not at fault. He doesn't want to be ostracised on the national team," Ribeiro said in an interview on Tuesday with the Rio de Janeiro daily O Globo. "He won't report this Tuesday, but he didn't travel due to an imposition of Real Madrid."