A player that should have been: Adriano

Posted on June 20, 2011 by

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Pace, power, fast feet and a lethal left foot, Adriano Leite Ribeiro or ‘Adriano’ was once dubbed the next Ronaldo. He has played for a host of Italy’s top teams, scored crucial goals for both club and country and like many footballing greats, was not just a great goal scorer but also a scorer of great goals. Though once likened to his childhood idol Ronaldo, Adriano perhaps took a few too many of Ronaldo’s negative attributes a little too far, and then a little bit further. Due to his fitness and temperament issues Adriano is a fallen idol. A player who didn’t live up to expectations and a player who should have been a great but never was.

Adriano started his career in Brazil with Flamengo. He moved to Internazionale and scored an emphatic free kick on his debut against Real Madrid. He had a successful loan spell with Fiorentina before playing for Parma in a co-ownership deal that existed with Inter. At Parma, Adriano formed a formidable strike partenership with Adrian Mutu and then carried this form into the following season with Inter, who bought the 22 year old outright in 2004. It was from this point onwards that Adriano started to prove himself and show his potential on the world stage. He won call ups to the national team, he won scudettos and had numerous plaudits across Europe. They called him ‘L’Imporatore’ (The Emperor) due to his physical size. At times he was capable of bulldozing through opponents but also showed flashes of finesse and brilliance. Adriano seemingly had the world at his feet, but that’s where it all started to go wrong.

Adriano in his Inter days taking on Man Utd's Michael Carrick

Following the death of his father in Brazil, Adriano’s fitness and work ethic dropped. Mid season partying, drinking and missed training sessions meant Inter’s patience began to wear thin. They went through every disciplinary measure in the book. He was fined, benched, put in the reserves and finally allowed to leave Italy to go and recuperate in an effort regain his fitness with Sao Paulo in Brazil. Despite achieving this in a short stint at Sao Paulo’s training facilities Adriano never stayed to far from controversy. Sao Paulo agreed to sign him on a short term loan deal but within his first few appearances he had head butted Santos fullback Domingos, and was threatened with an 18 month ban. Adriano repeatedly turned up late for training, faced multiple fines as a result and went on to have a bust up with a reporter.

Seemingly unsettled at Inter, Adriano always attracted attention from clubs across Europe . The most common talk in the media was that of a £60 million move to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2005. And, though Mourinho didn’t get his hands on Adriano then, he soon took charge of The Emperor when he moved to Inter in 2008. It was under Mourinho that Adriano seemed to rekindle some of his past form. He was a regular on the score sheet at the start of the 2008/09 season. The future looked bright. But, it was the same off field problems that had haunted the Brazilian for the majority of his career that cropped up yet again. At Inter, Jose Mourinho clearly recognised the talent that Adriano had shown. Yet, he recognised that he’d gain nothing from penalising him over and over again as others had tried. Adriano was one of those players that perhaps had needed a father figure as a manager earlier in his career. We can’t forget, many great players are constantly put back on the right tracks by their manager, Wayne Rooney for example. Following a discussion with Mourinho he was released early for that season’s winter break and never returned from international duty. Despite the financial repercussions, Adriano chose to have a break from football altogether.

Mourinho and Adriano celebrate

Adriano returned a few months later with his boyhood club Flamengo for the 2009/10 season where he formed a productive strike partnership with loanee and former international colleague Vagner Love. He scored 19 goals in 31 games. After saying he disliked the imposing media attention and pressure of living in Italy, it came of great shock that Adriano would be joining Roma on a 3 year contract after 1 year in Brazil. It was a mistake on both Adriano’s and Roma’s part. He only made 5 competitive appearences and had his contract terminated after 7 months. He has recently gone on to sign a contract with Corinthians but has yet to make an appearance.

Adriano has become one of many Brazilian players of late to return to playing back in his native country. Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho are just 3 of them. We sometimes forget what a different culture some these South American players come from. Maybe it’s a little ignorant that we should question a player’s temperament when it’s not that of a European player. Adriano was raised in a shanty town and was used to the free nature of the Brazlian lifestyle. As a result of this and his father’s untimely death, he went off the rails at a time where there was no one to put him back on them. He failed on too many occasions to live up to his potential in the face of approaching stardom. And though it might seem like one big sob story full of few highs and many lows, Adriano will always remain a player that should have been, rather than a player that was.

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Posted in: World Football