Is Adriano really ready for a return to Italy?

In recent weeks Flamengo striker Adriano has been linked with a return to Italy, after seemingly putting to one side his well-publicised personal problems to recapture his explosive talent. However, is the former Inter phenomenon ready to make a triumphant return, or is it a gamble on a player who has a tendency to relapse?

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Roma has expressed an interest in signing L’Imperatore on a free transfer, with his Flamengo contract having now expired. The link is attributed to his great goal-scoring form for the Brazilian giants. Since leaving Inter in 2009 – after the two parties agreed to rescind his contract – he has been banging in the goals for Flamengo, scoring 30 in 48 games and helping them to the Brazilian league title last year. However this great form on the pitch has not been without its controversies off it. The Brazilian striker has missed training throughout his stint in Brazil and was even dropped for a few games just a couple of months ago. Brazil Coach Dunga opted to snub Adriano when naming his 2010 World Cup squad, admitting he was not impressed with the Flamengo hitman, declaring he had been: “given several opportunities. There was a moment when we made a decision about the group. The group always welcomed Adriano, but there was a moment when reason talks louder than the heart.” His place has been given instead to Wolfsburg striker Grafite.

Adriano was once a feared striker in world football. Top scorer in Brazil’s 2004 Copa America and 2005 Confederations Cup triumphs and scorer of 77 goals in Serie A for Inter in five years. But off-the-field troubles took their toll on the footballer. He took his father’s death in 2004 hard and turned to alcohol and partying as a way out. This got out of control and he went through a loss of form, endured weight problems and regularly went AWOL from Inter training sessions.

It was thought a stint in Brazil, near family and friends would help him overcome his demons and regain his form and place in the Brazil side. It worked for awhile, as he found his form for Flamengo and was subsequently called up in a friendly with Ireland in March. However he looked sluggish in that game and Dunga remained unconvinced he had changed his ways.

His agent has notified European clubs that he is ready to sign with a big team. However he becomes somewhat of a liability to perspective teams. He has gone back to his old negative ways of missing training and Dunga’s exclusion of L’Imperatore in his World Cup plans insinuates that he is not trusted to help Brazil in South Africa. It has been speculated that Roma as part of the deal have engineered a ‘behavioural clause’ in the contract that stipulates the contract can be torn up at any time if Adriano exhibits his past problems.

However the planned move to Roma could be in jeopardy, as only a few days ago, Adriano was interviewed by Police in Rio, over his alleged connectiona to a notorious drug lord. Brazilian prosecutors said on June 2nd that there were “strong indications” that the Roma-bound player transferred $33 000 to the drug trafficker, who instigated a drug war with rival gangs that saw a police helicopter get shot down last year. The striker denied any wrong doing and has not been charged. If he is found to have aided drug gangs then this could be the final nail in the coffin on Adriano’s career. It is yet another negative story that he doesn’t need right now, in his battle to clean up his image.

Italy is the place where it all went wrong for the Brazilian. His troublesome ways came to the forefront during the latter half of his stint there. One has to question whether it is wise for him to return to a high pressure league, where the media will be baying for his blood and reporting any story about him they deem negative. The temptations will be there for him to slip back into his old ways. If he can concentrate solely on football matters and not get distracted, then there is no reason why the former Inter striker can’t thrive in the country where he made his name. This writer believes he can be an asset to Roma, only if he finds the mental strength to combat his multitude of problems.

Roma’s interest in the player suggests he is rediscovering his form, but the actions taken to protect themselves from his behaviour suggests doubts as to whether his form will last with a return to the country he initially found trouble in. The club look to have protected themselves in a deal with a player who, when in form can be a nuisance to opposing teams, when out of it, can be a nuisance to his own.

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