Adriano explains in his own words why Inter will always be ‘something special’ for him, especially Massimo Moratti, and why his career went off the rails after a family tragedy. ‘I have a hole in my ankle and one in my soul.’
The Brazilian, known as L’Imperatore, told his story for The Players Tribune and his love for Inter is undiminished by the years.
“Still, to this day, Inter is my club. I love Flamengo, São Paulo, Corinthians… I love many of the places I have played, but Inter is something special for me,” he said.
“The Italian press? O.K., that’s another story. Hahahaha. But Inter the club? The best, man.
“Damn, man. A favela guy like me? I’m the Emperor of Italy? I had not even done much yet, and everyone was treating me like a king. It was crazy. I remember my family all coming over from Rio to visit me, and when I say my family, you don’t understand what I mean, bro. I mean my family. Brazilian style. I’m not talking about just mom and dad, I’m talking about 44 people, man! Cousins! Aunts! Uncles! My boys! The whole neighborhood got on that airplane.
“So the news got to the club president, Mr. Moratti (the legend!!) And Mr. Moratti said, “Hey, this is a special moment for the kid. Let’s get a bus for his family.” Moratti had his people secure a whole tour bus for them. Can you imagine, 44 Brazilians on tour in Italy? Hahaha! It was a scene, bro. It was party time.
“This is the reason why I will never say a bad word about Mr. Moratti, or about Inter. Every club should be run like that. He cared about me as a person.”
At the height of Adriano’s fame and when his career was truly taking off to seemingly become one of the all-time greats, his father suddenly passed away in Brazil.
“You know, sometimes I think I am one of the most misunderstood footballers on the planet. People don’t really understand what happened to me. They have the story all wrong. It’s very simple, honestly.
“In the span of nine days, I went from the happiest day of my life, to the worst day of my life. I went from Heaven to Hell. For real.”
On July 25, 2004, he scored when Brazil beat Argentina in the Copa America Final. On August 4, his father died of a 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.
“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. 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. Brother, it’s simple. I have a hole in my ankle, and one in my soul.”
Adriano thanks Moratti for accepting without any protest that a return to Brazil was the best thing for him, giving the young man all the time and space he needed to heal himself.
He also denies that he was ever on drugs, although does confess his drinking was out of control.