Adriano: The Forgotten Icon

Adriano: The Forgotten Icon

Guile, speed, power and a fearsome shot.

These are qualities often associated with the ideal striker, all of which Adriano possessed at the peak of his powers.

The Brazilian striker who made his name in Serie A for scoring long range stunners only lasted eight years at the pinnacle of European football, and for a complete striker who was rightly touted as the next Ronaldo, it is a sore underachievement as he became effectively ineffective right at the age of 27, where most strikers hit their prime.

Just what unravelled for this once-phenomenal attacking force? 

Adriano was marked as a talent in his teenage years, as local club Flamengo signed him as part of its youth squad in 1999 as a 16-year-old, following outstanding performances for his local community team back in Rio De Janeiro.

A year later, at just 17, he managed to force his way into Flamengo’s first team and duly made his debut for the club, scoring 10 goals in 20 appearances.

His performances soon caught the eye of Italian giants Inter Milan, who secured his signature in 2001. Inter soon loaned him out to Fiorentina after indifferent performances, in hopes that he would soon find his feet. However, it was his transfer to Parma in the following season that provided the big break he needed as he stamped his mark in the league, forming a formidable partnership with Adrian Mutu.

Scoring 22 goals in 36 appearances, Inter re-acquired his services in January 2004. 

Adriano at Inter Milan.

It was in the 2004/2005 season at Inter Milan where he became a superstar, as he maintained his remarkable rise and scored 42 goals in all competitions for both club and country.

Testament to his success at club performances, he was rewarded by the Brazil national coach, as he replaced Ronaldo as the Selecao’s leading striker in both the 2004 Copa America and the 2005 Confederations Cup – competitions where Adriano was awarded the Golden Boot. 

However, what many did not know was that in the thick of his success, Adriano had received devastating news about his father on 4th August 2004 – a phone call from Brazil revealed that Adriano’s father succumbed to a sudden illness and passed away at the young age of 44.

The father-and-son pair was always very close, and this heartbreaking news caused Adriano to spiral towards depression, one that he never recovered from.

Former teammate Javier Zanetti only heard Adriano ‘throwing down the phone, and started screaming’ when the news broke in the hotel room, which they stayed before a Champions League match. It was the turning point for the prodigal talent who seemed to have the world at his feet just moments ago.  

The initial rage at this divine injustice and his desire to dedicate his goals to his late father pushed Adriano to maintain his outstanding performance throughout the 2004/2005 and 2005/2006 seasons, but his heavy drinking (a coping mechanism for his depression) and night partying habits soon caught up to him as he more often than not, turned up to training drunk, if he did turn up at all.

Without his father who had always guided his focus towards football, even the best intentions of club chairman Moratti and his closest team-mate, Javier Zanetti, could not prevent Adriano from indulging in excessive partying and drinking.

Inter Milan soon loaned him back to his native Brazil (Sao Paulo) in a bid to reignite his footballing career, but to no avail, as he eventually terminated his contract with Inter Milan in 2009.

He spent the next five years – his prime footballing years, jumping between stints in Brazil (under Flamengo, Corinthians and Atletico Paranaense) and Italy (a brief but unsuccessful spell with Roma in 2010).

However, none of these sides could reignite Adriano’s interest in football, and depression completely devoured him as the clubs released him due to his lack of passion and tendency to skip training. He finally hung up his boots with Miami United in the fourth tier of the U.S. national soccer league in 2016. 

Image result for adriano flamengo
Adriano during his time at Flamengo

Adriano was last spotted by the Brazilian media living back in the slums of Rio De Janeiro, where he has blown his fortune and even paid a local murderous gang (The Red Command) to ensure him and his family’s protection whilst they were living in the city.

There has even been pictures circulating that show Adriano flaunting firearms (such as the AK-47) in the presence of the gang members. Such is the magnitude of Adriano’s fall from grace that one can only rely on former clips and videos of his performances for Inter Milan to remember the flamboyant footballer that he once was. 

The reality is that discipline and hard work is equally as important, if not more so than natural talent in the footballing world, and the regretful downfall of ‘The Emperor’ due to a combination of overwhelming grief and ill discipline encapsulates this indisputable concept, for he was ultimately unable to surpass his inner demons to achieve eternal greatness in the beautiful game, a legacy that his undeniable talent seemed to promise.  

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