Hughes Defends Robinho
Mark Hughes insists Robinho is part of his long-term plan for Manchester City. Robinho arrived at Eastlands for a British record £32.5million fee at the beginning of September as the Abu Dhabi United Group set about making a significant statement of intent over the ownership of the Blues. At first the Brazilian impressed, scoring a hat-trick against Stoke and appearing unstoppable at times. However, amid allegations of a serious sexual assault and an unconnected and unscheduled return to South America when he was meant to be at a training camp in Spain, the 25-year-old's form has dipped markedly. It was December 28 when he last scored and on Sunday, his woeful penalty was easily saved by Marton Fulop after he took the spot-kick responsibility from fellow countryman Elano. Speculation that a summer move to Chelsea - the club he originally wanted to join from Real Madrid - could be back on the agenda has ceased following the exit of Luiz Felipe Scolari from Stamford Bridge. Yet rumours of a poor relationship between Hughes and his star striker persist, speculation Robinho's recent lack of goals has only fuelled. Hughes is adamant the stories are not true. And the City boss is confident Robinho will be around for a long time. "There is no reason for anybody to think Robinho is not playing well for any other reason than the opposition stopping him," declared Hughes. "He is aware of the stories about him and he knows the focus is on him. "But he is in my plans long term. People who say otherwise are just being mischievous. "He is an outstanding player who wants to be part of what we are doing. "But he is also a professional football player and he doesn't enjoy getting beaten." The recovery from injury of Martin Petrov, who is not far away from a return after a serious knee injury which was originally thought would rule him out for the remainder of the campaign, could help take some of the attacking pressure off Robinho. On the face of it, Petrov would also provide competition for the Brazilian's favoured left-sided berth, although Hughes feels the pair can be accommodated in the same side. "Robinho's favoured position is on the left-hand side, cutting in, but we could also play him off the front," said Hughes. "I certainly think you could play them both him and Petrov in the same team." While there were times last season when Petrov's eye for goal brought accusations of being greedy, the Bulgarian's pace and ability to beat defenders in tight situations offers City another option, which Hughes feels might have helped them on their travels this term. "If we had the benefit of Martin Petrov all season it would have given me a lot of variation," he said. "We could have changed things around because he would have given the opposition different problems. "You want someone who will take people on and get crosses in. On occasions, we have lacked that ability this season." Meanwhile, Vincent Kompany has withdrawn from the Belgium squad for Saturday's game against Bosnia with a small hamstring tear. Kompany, who was substituted shortly before the end of Sunday's game with Sunderland, will return to England for treatment. Belgium head coach Rene Vandereycken hopes the 24-year-old will be fit for the return trip to Bosnia on April 1.
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