Former Brazil international and cult hero Adriano remains one of modern football’s most iconic players, bursting onto the scene at the start of the century.
His abilities became the stuff of legend, encapsulated in his oft-heralded Pro Evo rating (99 shot power), but many were left wondering what really happened in the latter half of his career and why he left Inter and European football.
Adriano left Italy in 2009 aged just 27. He officially retired in 2016, after spells with the likes of Sao Paulo and Flamengo.
The exact hows and whys of Adriano’s ‘decline’ have never quite been known. But now in his own words, he has revealed exactly what happened.
In a moving piece for The Players’ Tribune, the forward wrote of how it was his father’s death that led to him falling out of love with the game, while serious injury made him call time on his career altogether.
“In the span of nine days, I went from the happiest day of my life [winning the Copa America in 2004], to the worst day of my life,” he wrote.
“They told me my father had died. Heart attack.
“I don’t really want to talk about it, but I will tell you that after that day, my love for football was never the same. He loved the game, so I loved the game. It was that simple. It was my destiny. When I played football, I played for my family. When I scored, I scored for my family. So when my father died, football was never the same.
“I was across the ocean in Italy, away from my family, and I just couldn’t cope with it. I got so depressed, man. I started drinking a lot. I didn’t really want to train. 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 in Serie A over those few years, and even though the fans really loved me, my joy was gone. It was my dad, you know? I couldn’t just flip a switch and feel like myself again.
“Not all injuries are physical, you understand?
“When I popped my Achilles in 2011? Man, I knew that’s when it was over for me, physically. You can get surgery and rehabilitate it and try to carry on, but you will never be the same. My explosiveness was gone. My balance was gone. Sh*t, I still walk with a limp. I still have a hole in my ankle.
“It was the same thing when my father died. Except the scar was inside me. I have a hole in my ankle, and one in my soul.”
Adriano also revealed how he walked out on Jose Mourinho at Inter in the 2008/09 season during international duty in order to return to his home in Brazil.
“The press were following me everywhere, and everything with Mourinho was, ‘F*cking hell! F*cking sh*t! You’re going to f*ck me, aren’t you, boy?’
“I said, Oh Lord. Get me out of here. I just couldn’t cope.
“I got called for the national team, and before I left Mourinho said, ‘You’re not coming back, you are?”’
“I said, “You already know it!” One-way ticket, brother. “
Read the full piece on The Players’ Tribune.