The famous 21st Century philosopher Britney Spears once provocatively asked: “Do you want a piece of me?”
It is a question which must have echoed loudly in the thoughts of Fiorentina striker Adrian Mutu in recent times. If he wasn't paranoid at the start of the season, he surely must be by now. Everyone, it seems, is out to get him.
There can be few players in the world being pursued by both their current and a former club for financial compensation for off-the-field misdemeanours. Little wonder he has a furrowed brow whenever he appears in the glare of a photographer's flashbulb of late. This is a man whose footballing career is on the brink of extinction.
The Romanian international has mixed glorious goals with moments of shame throughout his playing days. He was given a second chance after his first disaster. The puzzle for the Tuscan club is whether it is worth giving him another opportunity to redeem himself. Or should they simply wash their hands of him and let someone else take that risk?
For anyone who has missed the story so far it has all the makings of a film plot. As a gifted young striker he soared to the top of the game at big-spending Chelsea only to throw it all away when he tested positive for cocaine use and got banned. The London club ditched him quickly and is still pursuing him for about 17 million euros for a breach of contract.
Juventus were first to spot an opportunity and snapped him up while he was still suspended. He performed well enough for the Bianconeri but it was Cesare Prandelli at Fiorentina who recognised a real chance for redemption. The pair had worked well together at Parma in the past and it panned out wonderfully once again.
His rehabilitation was complete.
Mutu became a hero at the Artemio Franchi and seemed to have put his troubled times behind him. The club stood beside him during the legal battle with Chelsea, he repaid them with goals that took them into the Champions League. They even rebuffed a multi-million pound bid from Roma for the player. He looked destined to go down in the Florentine Hall of Fame.
But then the news came through of his failure of another drug test. This time for sibutramine, a slimming drug. He was ultimately banned for nine months, prompting Fiorentina to seek a reduction in his wages from the date the ban was confirmed. That process is currently ongoing.
It looks like the Viola have run out of patience with their errant star. He can return to the game in October this year but who would want such damaged goods? He is still a talented footballer and at 31 has a few seasons left in him. But will he have the mental strength to recover from this latest blow?
His offences have not been of the most serious kind, you could argue. The first was for a recreational drug while the second was only at the outer-limits of performance enhancement. And yet you do have to question the mindset of a man who could make such a silly mistake.
He hurt himself, his club, and his fans in the process.
The talk in Florence is that they will look to move him on in the summer. A cut-price deal of three or four million euros might clinch his signing. It would be sad never to see him in purple again but, equally, you could hardly blame the club.
Some stars just seem to have a habit of self-harming. When he was on the ball, Mutu was one of Serie A’s most graceful and clinical strikers. There is no doubt he was a key player in putting Fiorentina into the Champions League and they missed him dreadfully in their knockout clash with Bayern Munich. But he does seem to get into trouble on a regular basis.
It is that reputation which any prospective purchaser will have to deal with. They will get a talented player but one with his flaws written large across the sporting courts of Europe.
Somebody will surely be willing to take the gamble. The upside is potentially great from a player whose stock has never been so low. But, for those who have followed his career closely, there will always be a nagging doubt. When might he make his third, and surely final, major mistake?
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