At 32, What Can Adriano Salvage of a Wasted Career?

Robbie BlakeleySpecial to Bleacher ReportApril 15, 2014

Adriano of Brazil's Atletico Paranaense, left, celebrates with teammate Matias Mirabaje after scoring against Bolivia's The Strongest at a Copa Libertadores soccer match in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, April 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Juan Karita

Last week was one of the worst in recent memory for Brazilian clubs in the Copa Libertadores. Rio de Janeiro outfits Flamengo and Botafogo, as well as Atletico Paranaense, all fell at the group stage of the continental competition.

But whilst it may have been a night of shame for three of Brazil's entrants, there was a silver lining for one forward.

Former Internazionale and Brazil star Adriano scored his first goal in over two years in Atletico's 2-1 defeat to The Strongest of Bolivia.

Levelling in first-half injury time, he briefly gave the club hope of progressing in the tournament, only for it to be dashed after the interval. For the player himself, however, it was hope that he can turn the corner for what must undoubtedly be the nightcap in his last-chance saloon.

Adriano managed just four games during Corinthians' 2011 Brasileiro success.
Adriano managed just four games during Corinthians' 2011 Brasileiro success.Andre Penner

His most recent previous strike had come on February 25 in the Sao Paulo state championship, while playing for Corinthians. Despite the club winning the league title during his spell there, his marriage to the Paulista club was not a happy one.

It is a theme that has unfortunately repeated itself throughout his checkered career.

The look of delight on his face as he tapped home told more than any words could. For the 32-year-old, it has been a long journey back to the football pitch that at times never looked like he would complete.

For a man of such abundant talent, Adriano's career has been far more about the downs than the ups. Since winning the 2009 Campeonato Brasileiro with Flamengo and lifting the Golden Boot with 19 goals, it appeared the strikeronce considered one of the most dangerous and formidable on the planethad put his demons behind him.

He had even battled his way back into the international reckoning. Dunga picked him for Brazil's friendly with Ireland in February 2010, but before the main event that summer he was already on the descent again.

A disastrous spell at Italian club AS Roma, where he failed to find the back of the net, saw him back in his homeland within a year.

Adriano and Flamengo seemed a natural fit, but the proposed transfer was vetoed by then-coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo. Instead, he found himself at Corinthians, where bad luck played a pivotal part in his downhill slide.

Just weeks after signing with the club, he snapped an Achilles tendon and was ruled out for over five months. During Corinthians' run to the 2011 Brasileiro title, the Imperador made just four appearances, scoring a solitary goal.

After parting ways following another miserable year, he was finally given another crack at Flamengo. This time, the club was cautious.

Adriano could have fit perfectly into Scolari's Brazil formation.
Adriano could have fit perfectly into Scolari's Brazil formation.Hamish Blair/Getty Images

His contract was dependent on matches played. Adriano never managed a game.

At this late stage in his career, following injuries, drinking binges and controversies galore, it would take a brave club to take a punt on a washed-up forward. Atletico Paranaense have taken that chance.

The club were the surprise package of last year's Brazilian league. They finished third, which qualified the side for their run in the Copa Libertadores.

The signing of Adriano has, regrettably, not worked out. After missing training on two occasions the club rescinded his contract, meaning the former international is now out in the wilderness once more.


Adriano lifts the Brasileiro trophy in 2009 whilst at Flamengo. He was the league's top scorer with 19 goals.
Adriano lifts the Brasileiro trophy in 2009 whilst at Flamengo. He was the league's top scorer with 19 goals.Felipe Dana

Now, whatever happens from here, however much of a success the forward manages to carve out of the embers of his once-burning fire, it must surely grate that his chances of pulling on the yellow shirt of the Selecao have already been reduced to cinders.

It is a bitter irony that now, at the helm of the national ship, is a coach whose favoured style would suit a player of Adriano's attributes perfectly. Luiz Felipe Scolari loves a target man, and right now that position is in the hands of Fluminense forward Fred.

But would a fully fit Adriano, a man who had fought off his demons and used the momentum of that 2009 Brasileiro success with Flamengo to relaunch his career, find a place in the starting line-up of the most important World Cup for Brazilians in over 60 years?

 The grim reality is we will never know. However, his own waste may also be Brazil's loss.