Brazil's Santos and Robinho part ways amid pressure over rape conviction

Sao Paulo (AFP) –


Santos and veteran international striker Robinho said Friday they had agreed to part ways amid pressure brought to bear on the Brazilian soccer team over his conviction in Italy of having raped a young woman in 2013 when he played for Milan.

Once a rising star of the game, Robson de Souza, popularly known as Robinho, had just days ago signed a 36-month contract with Santos, the side he had played for before he signed on for Real Madrid, Manchester and Milan.

"Santos Football Club and the player Robinho announce that by common agreement, they have decided to suspend his contract signed on October 10 so that the player can concentrate exclusively on his defense in the case that occurred in Italy," the club said in a statement posted to Twitter.

"With great sadness in my heart, I am letting you know that I have taken the decision together with the president [of the soccer club] to suspend my contract in this turbulent time in my life," said Robinho, 36, in a video. "My goal was always to help Santos football club."

"If my presence is in any way a disruption, it is better to leave and take care of my personal affairs," he said.

Since news broke of his contract with Santos, the club has been under increasing pressure from fans, the media and women's groups to cut ties because of a nine-year jail term handed down by an Italian court in 2017 for a gang rape Robinho was found guilty of participating in four years earlier.

Robinho, who was once touted as a successor to Santos' most famous player, Pele, is appealing the conviction, claiming he is innocent.

But sponsors of the club had threatened to pull out if he stayed at Santos. And the television channel Globo Sports released excerpts of a recording Italian prosecutors used to secure their conviction, in which the player purportedly says, "I'm laughing because I don't care. The woman was completely drunk. She doesn't even know what happened."

Robinho was found guilty of having taken part in the gang rape of a woman in her 20s together with a group of companions in a Milan nightclub.

Santos, which also incubated the contemporary star Neymar, had until now resisted pressure to part ways with Robinho, insisting that the court case was still underway.

Robinho started his career there 2002 and joined Real Madrid in 2005, then went on to play for Manchester City and Milan.