Each era has a group of iconic footballers who could’ve and should’ve achieved more. They are generally loved due to their unconverted talent exploding every now and then. And when you talk about explosions, you simply have to mention the ones that regularly detonated in Serie A during the mid-‘00s.
The detonator was nobody else than Adriano Leite Ribeiro – also known as the Imperator.
Brazilians are used to having a stand-out player in every generation. From Pele to Neymar nowadays, the world’s best were regularly born in the Samba culture. So, when Ronaldo Nazario de Lima was declining in Real Madrid, the spot was open for his successor. It didn’t take long for Brazilians to find him – finesse and power shaped an unstoppable football player. Adriano really did look like he had it all.
And when Adriano took the nation on his back in Copa America, scoring seven goals and tying the final against Argentina in the 93rd minute before Brazil won on penalties, the land of Joga Bonito found their savior.
Imperator himself didn’t think about stopping for one second. From June 2004 to July 2005, Adriano scored 42 goals, marking himself as the candidate to become the World’s best player.
And then it happened.
Adriano received a phone call.
A friend from Brazil was on the other end of the line, saying the words: “Adri, dad is dead”.
His whole world stopped.
Nothing was ever the same from that moment on.
Adriano fell into depression as his father meant everything to him. Zanetti talked about the sound he heard from Adriano after the Brazilian just heard the news, saying that it was an indescribable scream of suffering.
The powerful machine let himself go, not caring about a single thing in the world. Even though his work ethics fell down, Adriano cheated on training for a season, scoring regularly for Inter, but football will catch up with you eventually if you don’t work hard.
Adriano lost all his will to train and dedicate himself to football, preferring to live in his own world of self-destruction among living in the pain. He replaced the ball with alcohol, replaced a regular sleeping pattern with regular drug usage.
The rest of Adriano’s career was gaining weight and traveling back and forth between Inter and Brazil. Moratti believed in the Brazilian, but Adriano abused the trust one too many times. This resulted in him wasting away his career before finally retiring in the USA.
“I played with great champions. I played with players that were already…wow. I played with players that I saw were talent and became…wow, but the one I felt could do it longer, and he didn’t do it, was Adriano when I was at Inter. He could shoot from every angle, nobody could tackle him, nobody could take the ball, he was a pure animal.”
– Zlatan Ibrahimović