By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Former Flamengo superstar Adriano joined São Paulo giants Corinthians on March 25th 2011, with one simple mission; salvage what is left of what could have been one of the modern era’s most dangerous strikers. The 29 year old Rio born player endured a torrid time at Italian club AS Roma after fans thought he had finally turned the corner on the darkest days of his career.
At the beginning of the last decade Adriano Leite Ribeiro had a reputation almost as large as his massive frame. Standing at 6 foot 4 inches of pure muscle and with a left foot like a rocket launcher, the teenager had the world at his feet.
Arriving in Milan and signing with Internazionale as a bright eyed nineteen year old, Adriano was loaned out to Parma and Fiorentina where his blistering form convinced Inter bosses he was ready for the big time; playing for one of Europe’s elite. He didn’t disappoint.
For such a huge man, the attacker moved on cat’s feet and carved open the stingy Italian defenses, spreading fear on whatever park he graced. Adriano’s talent meant he was playing football without a break for four consecutive years; he represented Brazil in 2003, 2004, 2005 and finally at the World Cup in 2006. By this time, his body, as well as his mental state, were beginning to show signs of strain.
In late 2004 Adriano’s father, Almir Ribeiro, passed away, leaving a gaping hole in his son’s life. Adriano has admitted since that the main reason he pursued football as a career was not for himself, nor as a reason to escape the favela he had called home and where the majority of his friends still lived – it was to make his father proud. With this incentive tragically wrested from him, he felt he was playing for nothing.
After the World Cup in Germany, his career went steadily into decline, culminating in a furious row with then Inter coach Jose Mourinho in early 2009, when he reported for training one morning clearly still inebriated from the previous evening’s drinking session. By April of that year, Adriano had tendered his resignation to both Internazionale and football as a whole; he was retiring at the tender age of 27.
But back in his homeland, he found redemption at the club he had started his career; Flamengo. Home is where the heart is, the saying goes, and in Adriano’s case it rings true. The player has an extremely close bond with his mother and blames many of the problems he had settling in Rome on homesickness and being separated from family.
His last sojourn to his homeland was successful; he scored nineteen goals in the 2009 Campeonato Brasileiro and was instrumental in Flamengo lifting their sixth national crown.
After suffering yet more alcohol problems at Roma and succumbing to his demons, Adriano has a final chance to turn his career around. At 29, he should be at the pinnacle of what promised to be a career of medals and trophies; the last five years have been measured in bottles.
Now back home where he belongs, he still has the ability to make his stay at Corinthians something to be remembered.