Controversial, problematic, petulant – call him what you wish but you will find few better strikers in Italy at present than Fiorentina’s Adrian Mutu.
The Romanian’s career may be as interesting off the pitch as on it and he may not be the shy-retiring type that his Coaches could wish for but Mutu is a man worth his weight in gold.
It is ten years since the Romanian first came into the public eye, scoring on his debut for Inter in a Coppa Italia victory over city rivals Milan. A decade later the 30-year-old is one of Europe’s most feared front men and arguably at the peak of his powers at Champions League chasing Fiorentina.
There have been blips on the way, none bigger than the cocaine scandal that cut short his time at Chelsea, but Mutu has found redemption in Florence. Joining la Viola off the back of a recovery spell at Juventus, the Romanian has flourished at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, scoring just shy of 50 league goals for the clubs in three seasons.
Mutu now averages a goal every other game for i Gigliati and while that won’t come as much surprise to past teams or their supporters with his ability never in question, the length of time spent at the Tuscan side will surely have raised eyebrows. In a career spanning twelve years, the scheming forward is currently at his eighth club, and his three-year stay at Fiorentina is only matched for longevity by the time he spent at hometown club Arges Dacia at the very start of his career.
Perhaps now the ex-Parma and Verona man is as settled off the pitch as he is on it. His performances this season have been nothing short of excellent, something that has no doubt been enhanced by the arrival of Alberto Gilardino, the traditional fox-in-the-box striker from Milan.
The pair has scored over thirty goals in all competitions together and are already drawing flattering comparisons from some quarters with great Viola forward partnerships of the past such as Gabriel Batistuta and Francesco Baiano. Some have even compared them with the Fiorentina strike-force of Giuseppe Virgili and Miguel Montuori, a double act that brought la Viola 80 goals between them in three seasons and Fiorentina’s first league title in 1956.
Gilardino’s traditional striking qualities have complemented and been enhanced by Mutu’s ability to provide pin-point assists to his strike partner, and whilst the Italian is an expert at finishing in the box, Mutu can finish from pretty much anywhere, with either foot and always with immense composure.
Of course, there is still an incredibly long way before the two can compare to such prolific partnerships, and Mutu will be aware that time to develop the on-pitch relationship, having already seen one promising partnership disintegrated when Luca Toni traded Florence for Munich. Toni’s decision to leave his homeland for the riches of the Bundesliga for Bayern Munich will have struck a cord with the Romanian vice-captain. Six years ago the striker joined money-saturated Chelsea off the back off a brilliant season at Parma, a season that is still arguably his best in football to date.
Despite a promising start in the Premier League, his form petered out and his time in West London ultimately ended in disgrace after being found guilty of taking cocaine. The Romanian was sacked by his club, banned by the English FA for seven months and hit with a hefty compensation bill that after a fruitless appeal will eventually set him back £13.8m. Despite at one stage during ban considering retiring from the sport, the disgraced star returned to Italy, signing for Fabio Capello’s Juventus in January 2005, making his debut in May of that year after his ban ended. The striker scored seven goals in 32 appearances and despite a couple of promising displays, never fully reached top form at the Stadio Delle Alpi in what was ultimately a period of rehabilitation both on and off the pitch.
A £7m move to Fiorentina reunited the player with former-Parma Boss Cesare Prandelli and this proved to be a master-stroke for both player and club. Mutu went on to win the Il Calcio Player of the Year award in his debut season, and la Viola has since gone on to re-emerge as a side with top four credentials with Mutu leading the team. Now with over 100 Serie A goals and in the prime of his career, the controversial 30-year-old is attracting serious interest from Roma and Milan. As a man who appears to have settled both in life and the game, perhaps the Romanian will be more aware now that the grass on the other side is not always greener.
Past Lessons in Calcio