By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Adriano is one of Brazil’s most renowned soccer players. The talented Carioca striker started his career in Flamengo, and when he was only eighteen he was already playing for the Brazil national team. The young striker caught the attention of foreign scouts, and in 2001, a nineteen-year-old Adriano left Flamengo for European soccer.
He played in Italy, mostly for Internazionale di Milano (he briefly played for Parma and Fiorentina, also). While playing for Inter, Adriano got the nickname “L’Imperatore” (reference to Rome’s emperor Adriano), since the team’s fans said he dominated his opponents. In the following years, Adriano played big roles in very important games, specially in 2005 and 2006 when Inter won the Serie A Italian Championship, Coppa Italia, and the Super Cup, and also in international competitions, as he was Brazil’s top scorer on the 2004 Copa América and on the 2005 Confederations Cup.
In 2006, Adriano’s father died prematurely, and his performance was dramatically affected. The striker stopped scoring goals and suffered from some personal troubles, like skipping practice and drinking excessively in public. His bad attitude and poor in-game performances made Inter’s coach Roberto Mancini place him in the bench for almost an entire year in 2007.
Adriano was depressed and out of shape, and Inter’s board of directors decided to let him go to Brazil to get in shape, and stabilize his emotional state. The player then started training in the São Paulo team’s facilities, and his condition quickly improved, as he lost six pounds and gained muscle strength.
The Paulista team then convinced Inter’s board of directors to let Adriano play there for the next few months to regain confidence in his game. Inter agreed and Adriano spent the first semester of 2008 playing for São Paulo, performing well with 18 goals in 27 matches.
In late 2008, he returned to Inter, and had some good performances, but in spite of that, Adriano stayed in the bench a lot. In January 2009, the board of directors gave him an early dispensation for the spring break, as he had a International duty with Brazil’s national team. After the break ended though, Adriano never returned to Italy, not even contacting Internazionale about his absence.
Rumors started spreading around that Adriano was dead, but eventually he was seen in Rio de Janeiro. Sometime later he arranged a press conference to dismiss the death rumors and to tell the world he would retire temporarily from soccer, as the superstar lifestyle was making him unhappy.
He said he had no intention of going back to Italy or even playing soccer again, that he wanted to return to a simple life. Adriano was frequently seen walking barefoot, and visiting friends of his teenage days, in the Vila Cruzeiro Favela. He said he was as happy as he could be, being closer to his mother, and back to his hometown.
Internazionale’s board of directors showed support to the player and even arranged an agreement with his agent, Gilmar Rinaldi, freeing the player from his obligations with Internazionale without any kind of contract break fees.
A few days later, Flamengo’s Vice-President, Kleber Leite told the press that the club’s doors were always open to Adriano, and that he’d love to see the striker back in action in Flamengo. This fueled rumors that he would come back to the club, after eight years.
Adriano at first denied that he was negotiating with Flamengo, as he still claimed to have lost interest in soccer, but he also said that if he came back, the only club that he had any interest in playing on was Flamengo. Eventually, it was confirmed that Flamengo was really signing with Adriano, and the negotiations were in the final stage.
Having started his professional career in Flamengo, Adriano claims to have a huge passion for the team since he was a little kid. In 2001 he played an important role in the Copa dos Campeões and Campeonato Carioca victories, he still is dearly beloved by the Flamengo supporters. He was in Maracanã last weekend, watching the Campeonato Carioca final, and the crowd sang “O Imperador voltou” (portuguese for “The emperor has returned”) to him, as the negotiations with Flamengo seem to be going well.
Rumors say that he will be officially announced in May 11th. Before that, Adriano will travel to Milan to thank the team’s board of directors and coach José Mourinho, for their understanding and help as they let the player loose and ignored his contract so that he could return to the team that projected him to world fame.