A powerful left foot. An extraordinary physique. A nickname that says it all. “Il Imperatore”. The emperor. Adriano (39) marked a generation, mainly in the shirts of Inter and Brazil. His goals in stunts, under the jerseys of Flamengo, Fiorentina, Parma, but especially Inter and Brazil remain in everyone’s memories, just like his unplayable virtual double on PES. At least as much as his slow descent into hell even though he was entering the best years of his career. As rarely, for The Players’ Tribune, the Brazilian told his version of an immense career but which will remain unfinished. “‘But Adriano, why did you stray from football? Why?” Every time I return to Italy, I am asked this question. Sometimes I tell myself that I am one of the most misunderstood football players on the planet. People didn’t really understand what had happened with me. They got the wrong story. It’s very simple actually. Within nine days, I went from the happiest day of my career to the worst day of my life. From heaven to hell, in nine days. Seriously”, he said before continuing.
“July 25, 2004. Copa América final against Argentina. All Brazilians remember this game. We were losing against these failures. They messed us up, tried to get into our heads to save time. Luis Fabiano wanted to come to blows. (…) What happened next looks like a dream. A movie. A piece of music. I don’t know what happened, but it seemed unreal. Air balloon in the Argentine surface. Confusion. Bodies. Nudges. I couldn’t see anything! If you see the action again, I’ll put my elbow in the air to kick it off. Suddenly the ball hits my foot. A gift from heaven. I said to myself: “come here, you! And boom. I would be lying if I told you I knew where I was shooting. I just pulled from the left, as hard as I could. Boom. Well done for Argentines. The ball ended up in the net and I can’t describe that feeling. Unbelievable. We equalize and we know we broke them. We knew what was going to happen on penalties. We won. Not Argentina. To beat Argentina, like that, for my country, with my family in the stands. He was probably the happiest player of my life. How can I not think that God has put his hand on my life? It is a lesson for all. Because whoever you are, you can be at the top, you can be the Imperatore, but your life can change in a snap ”, he said.
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Depression and alcohol
Everything changes with the disappearance of his father. “August 4, 2004. Nine days later. I was going back to Europe, to find Inter. I get a call at home. I was told that my father had just died. Heart attack. I didn’t really want to talk about it, but I’ll tell you that after that day my love for football was never the same again. My dad loved football, so I loved football. As easy as that. It was my destiny. When I played football, I played for my family. When I scored, I scored for my family. So when my dad died football was never the same. I was on the other side of the Atlantic, away from my family, and I couldn’t handle it all. I was depressed. I started drinking a lot. I really didn’t want to train anymore. It had nothing to do with Inter. I just wanted to go home. To be honest with you, even though I scored a lot of goals afterwards during all my years in Serie A and although the fans liked me very much, I was not happy. My dad was gone, you see? I couldn’t feel myself again ”, he explained before insisting.
“Not all injuries are physical, you understand?” When I ruptured my Achilles tendon in 2011, I knew it was all over for me, physically. You can have the operation, re-educate yourself, try to continue, but you will never be the same again. My explosiveness is gone. My balance too. Damn, I’m still limping. I still have a hole in my ankle. It was the same when my father died. But the scar was inside me. “What happened to Adriano?” It is very simple. I have a hole in my ankle and another in my soul “. Broken, and while he was still very successful in Europe (77 goals in 180 Serie A matches), Carioca decided to return home. “In 2008, Mourinho arrived at Inter and I was saturated. (…) I couldn’t stand it any longer. I couldn’t play with passion anymore. I was called up for selection and, before my departure, Mourinho told me: “you will not come back”. And I didn’t come back ”, he explained, delivering his explanations on this return to the fold with a frankness and a rare transparency.
A return to the salutary country
“The press sometimes doesn’t understand that we are human. It was a lot of pressure to be “Il Imperatore”. I came out of nowhere. I was a kid who just wanted to play soccer and have fun with his friends. And I know that this is a speech that we hear a lot more today, because everything is very serious and there is a lot of money at stake. But I’m just being honest. I never stopped being the Adriano of the favela. Did I end millions on my way back? Yes surely. But how much is peace of mind worth? How much would you pay to get back to basics? At the time, I was at the bottom of the abyss with the death of my father. I wanted to feel myself again. I was not drugged. Never. Was I drinking? Yes of course. Damn, yeah, I drank a lot. Health! But, I swear to God that I never took drugs. The day that happens is that my mother and my grandmother will be dead. The alcohol ? Yes, a lot, especially since I like to drink ”, he confessed. In Brazil, the time of a season, in 2009, the former international Auriverde (47 selections, 27 achievements) will find his feelings and pleasure.
“When I returned to Rio, to play for Flamengo, I didn’t want to be ‘Il Imperatore’ anymore. I wanted to be Adriano. I wanted to have fun again. I’m going to tell the truth about this Flamengo team: this group was wonderful because it was real, sincere. It wasn’t just me. It was the whole group. Sometimes we came to training not for football, but for fun afterwards. As soon as the session ended, boom, we had a drink. Time to play. Even the wives of gamers knew it: “we’ll be home around midnight!” (Laughs). The next day, if one player was tired, the other would tell him: “worry, I’ll run for you!” If one player was drunk, the other would say: “I’m going to run for him, no worries!”. We did everything together. And we won. We gave Flamengo a Brasileirão seventeen years later. It was special. I haven’t been the same since my father died, but that season I really felt at home. I was happy again. I had become Adriano again ”, he concluded. As a need to put things right, Adriano therefore opened his heart to his injuries, moral and physical, to explain his career a little better. And even if he will not say anything about his failed passages at AS Roma, Corinthians, Atlético Paranaense or his real-false arrival in Le Havre in December 2014 and his attempted comeback in Miami in 4th division American, we better understand some of his choices, which will not undermine his legend.
“Como é que você pode dizer que eu não fui tocado por Deus? Minha história não tem muita lógica, nem mesmo para mim. ”@ A10imperador em suas próprias palavras.
– The Players’ Tribune Brasil (@TPT_Brasil) May 11, 2021