Parma, 13 September 2018 – Adriano Leite Ribeiro, otherwise known as the Emperor, is this week’s Old Flame as we prepare for Inter vs. Parma on Saturday at 15:00 CEST.
It was a warm evening on 14 August 2001, with Real Madrid hosting Inter at the Bernabeu in what was the perfect setting for a prestigious friendly. With the two teams drawing 1-1 after Vieri cancelled out Hierro’s opener, a 19-year-old Brazilian entered the fray with just five minutes to go. Not long after the Nerazzurri were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area, and it was then that this young striker made his first impression on Italian football. Striding up to take the set-piece, his following shot was recorded at 178 km/h and not even Iker Casillas could get close as the ball crashed into the top right-hand corner. Adriano had landed.
Coming through the youth ranks at Flamengo, his quality was clear but he still struggled to secure a spot at Inter due to the strong competition of the four strikers already present: Ronaldo, Vieri, Ventola and Kallon. Interestingly, his Serie A debut came at the Tardini during a 2-2 draw between Parma and Inter, while his first goal was a winning one and came against Venezia at San Siro. He was sent on loan to Fiorentina in the January transfer window, scoring six goals in 15 appearances.
The following year he joined the Crociati on loan and during the 2002-03 campaign, one could immediately see Adriano’s ability as a prolific striker. That season, he scored 15 league goals in 28 games, as well as two more in the UEFA Cup and other matches. Some of his goals still live long in the memory of Crociati fans, such as his back-heel winner against Milan at the Tardini.
Parma qualified for the UEFA Cup thanks to a fifth-place finish that season and Adriano remained with the club for the following season. He scored eight goals in nine league games, as well as one Coppa Italia strike in two appearances. He returned to Inter on loan in January, scoring nine goals during the second half of the 2003-04 campaign. It was with the Nerazzurri where he fully embraced Emperor status, scoring 77 goals in 174 games and securing two Scudetti, two Coppa Italia trophies and two Supercoppa Italiana titles.
Sadly, personal problems soon hindered Adriano’s performances out on the pitch and he was sent on loan to Sao Paolo in Brazil. Following a brief return to Inter, he then joined Flamengo and got back to his scoring best to help the team win the league. 2010 saw him return once again to Italy, joining Roma for one season before further stints back in Brazil with Corinthians, Flamengo and Atletico Paranaense. In total Adriano scored 135 career goals in 299 appearances.