Last chance saloon for Adriano after rejoining Flamengo
There might not be any second acts in American lives, but for big name Brazilian footballers in need of redemption it’s a rather different story. Adriano is probably deep into the fourth or fifth act of a troubled career, but opportunity knocked this week as the player, now recovered from Achilles tendon surgery, signed with Flamengo until December. If he fluffs his lines again, future roles are likely to be more church hall amateur dramatics than Broadway hit.
Still only 30, Adriano`s fall from grace has been remarkable. Even after his credit expired in Italy, the player was still good enough, and more importantly fit enough, to carry Flamengo to the Brasileirão title in 2009, when he finished joint top scorer alongside Atlético Mineiro`s Diego Tardelli. After that, however, came a disastrous spell at Roma, which ended with his contract being rescinded, leaving the way open for a supposedly glorious homecoming with Corinthians in 2011.
But Adriano endured a miserable year in São Paulo, managing only 300 minutes on the pitch and a paltry two goals. The only bright spot was a vital winner against Atlético in November when, with two minutes left and Corinthians wobbling, Adriano rumbled into the area before smashing the ball home from a tight angle. Corinthians would be crowned champions two weeks later.
Worse, a lack of stellar performances on the pitch meant Corinthians were unable to recreate the marketing mania that had surrounded Ronaldo`s arrival in 2009, and the club took an epic financial bath on the deal. Adriano`s contract with Corinthians was eventually torn up at the beginning of this year, shortly after he was dropped from the squad for two key games in the Campeonato Paulista and the Libertadores for “not trying as much as expected in training.”
There is no doubt that injuries have played a major part in Adriano`s decline. But equally damaging has been the psychological scarring caused by the player`s troubled past.
Adriano grew up in Rio`s Vila Cruzeiro community, a favela which, like many others in Brazil, is steeped in the culture of violence. It was here that the Globo reporter Tim Lopes was murdered by gangsters in June 2006, and Adriano`s own father was hit by a stray bullet in 2002. His father eventually died of a heart attack two years later, aged only 45, and Adriano would never overcome the tragedy, nor break the grip that the darker aspects of his upbringing held over him.
The stories of late night partying and boozing, often in insalubrious environments for a professional athlete, are plentiful. In March 2010, in another Rio favela, Complexo do Alemão, Adriano was caught on camera allegedly striking his then partner, Joana Machado, at a baile funk in the early hours of the morning. A couple of months later, photos surfaced showing the player posing with a machine gun (allegedly fake), and around the same time, he was questioned by police after a motorbike he had bought was found registered in the name of the mother of a known traficante.
And at the end of last year there was the curious case of the woman shot in the hand while a passenger in Adriano’s car. While the story turned out to be not much more than a prank gone wrong (the gun belonged to Adriano’s bodyguard and the woman had grabbed it herself), it showed the remarkable ability the player has to attract the wrong sort of attention.
Flamengo, though, are in desperate need of a hero. With marquee names such as Seedorf, Diego Forlán and Luis Fabiano, not to mention Neymar, safely ensconced at rival clubs, Flamengo`s collection of youngsters, journeymen, and Vagner Love has been looking all too humble of late, unforgiveable in Brazilian football`s world of intense inter-club tribalism and one-upmanship. No matter that Adriano has endured two major surgeries in the last eighteen months, or that few can remember the last time he was seen in anything resembling good shape. Flamengo, and under fire club president Patricia Amorim, need a big name, and fast.
As Amorim said a few months ago, “Adriano is ours, and always will be!” Yesterday the man himself, signed on a low risk, pay-as-you-play deal, sounded less ebullient, but also refreshingly conscious of the errors of his past. “This could be my last chance,” he said. ”If don’t take my responsibilities seriously, I could blow it. It`s down to me and no one else.”Tagged in: adriano, flamengo, football
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