Anyone who has followed Italian or Brazilian football with any sort of vague interest over the last five or so years will have hopefully comeacross Adriano, Adriano Leite Ribeiro. The once prolific and nearing untouchable target man with a left foot that could break wrists has had his fair share of controversy over the past couple of years. He has been left out of Dunga’s Brazil squad for the World Cup next month and may now be looking for a move back to Europe to find a better standard of football.
Adriano signed for Inter in 2001 following a good breakthrough year at Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro at the tender age of 19. He worked his way into the first team by going on loan and producing the goods for Fiorentina and Parma (Parma actually co-owned Adriano for 2 years). From the 2004-05 season onwards he was a huge part of Inter’s first team. However the death of his father in August 2004 and the split with his long term girlfriend shortly afterward sent the front man into a spiral of depression. He was able to hide this from Inter for some considerable period of time but soon the demons began to catch up with him and he was disciplined by the Milanese club for late nights on the town and missed training sessions. This it would seem, was the beginning of the end.
In 2007 Massimo Moratti, the Inter chairman, sent Adriano back to Brazil to recuperate and to seek counselling for the problems he had been facing. He was loaned out to Sao Paolo so that he could continue to maintain some form of physical shape while at home. Despite scoring a brace on debut he continued to prove difficult to handle, he was sent off soon afterward for headbutting another player and began turning up late and missing training sessions again. Half way through the 2007 campaign Sao Paolo decided they had had enough and terminated the loan early sending Adriano back to Italy because ‘they couldn’t count on him‘
In April 2009 he called his own career into question by stating that “I don’t care about the money,” he said. “I care about being happy. And in Italy I’m unhappy. Everybody should have the right to pursue happiness.” This followed his disappearing act following a short International break. The striker didn’t turn up for the flight back to Milan and could not be found for 3 days, it later turned out he was chilling out in the Favela where he grew up. Later that month he terminated his contract with Inter and went back to Brazil, seemingly for good. Serie A mourned the loss of a potential legend.
He joined his first club Flamengo a few weeks later and has been playing for them for the past year, he has linked well with Vagner Love and Kleberson (once of Manchester United). Last season they came from nowhere to win the Brazilian national championship. However his psychological problems have not yet been dealt with properly, at least his behaviour suggests that the deeply rooted issues are still there.
He as been late multiple times for training, occasionally not turning up at all. The first of these incidents was just a matter of days after his debut for his new club. It appears to have cost him his place at this summer’s World Cup. Dunga has a soft spot for Adriano, but he has made it clear that he is all about ‘the group’ as it were, and as Tim Vickery describes it. For Dunga it is no use having sensational talent if you are going to undermine the work your team mates by playing away. Even though he seems to like Adriano, he cannot take him to the World Cup because of the disruption it may cause to his squad. The problem for Adriano is that in Brazil his club are happy to allow him these indiscretions and will make excuses for him to placate him. The club have even gone as far as to ‘falsify’ doctor’s reports to explain away his absenses from training sessions, even blaming the absense on hot dogs.
Over the last few days rumours emerged linking Adriano with a move back to Europe and specifically to Roma, these were followed by reports that he had already informed his team mates of his intention to leave next month in order to return to Italy. If this move goes through it will be intriguing to see how Claudio Ranieri handles the fiery and unpredictable temperament of Adriano. It will also be interesting to see if Adriano is finally ready to knuckle down and get on with his football so that he can show us exactly what it is he can do.