However, there is one player whose name does not make the list when such great players are listed. He had everything in his artillery to dominate the game, but his time at the top did not last long. His name is Adriano, nicknamed 'The Emperor'.
The Rise of Adriano
Adriano enjoyed a rapid rise as a teenager. He was playing in the first-team at Flamengo and made his debut for Brazil as an 18-year-old.
The forward was the complete package. He had all the attributes you want in a striker. His amazing combination of blistering pace, phenomenal power, nimble footwork, and lethal shot drew comparisons with the original Ronaldo. The teenager was proclaimed as the heir to the great number 9.
The Brazilian's exploits did not go unnoticed in Europe. He was quickly signed by Inter Milan before being sold to Parma in exchange for Fabio Cannavaro.
At Parma, he formed a formidable duo with Adrian Mutu, scoring 22 goals himself. The striker's performances made Inter Milan sign him again in January 2004.
Adriano went on to reach the height of his powers with the Nerazzurri. In the 2004-05 season, he scored 28 goals and helped his club win the Coppa Italia. At the international stage, he was establishing himself as one of the stars for his country. The then 22-year-old helped Brazil win the 2004 Copa America and finished as the leading scorer with 7 goals to his name.
The whole world was in awe of this hugely talented striker, and Adriano looked set to continue his dominance at both domestic and international stage. So what exactly stopped this generational talent from achieving immortality?
The Fall of 'The Emperor'
During the Copa America, Adriano's father was suffering from ill-health. After scoring the winning penalty in the final against Argentina, the striker paid tribute to his ill father.
“This title belongs to my father,” Adriano sobbed. “He is my great friend in life; my partner. Without him I am nothing.”
Nine days after this glorious moment, his father died of a heart attack. Little did the world know that 'The Emperor' would never be the same again after this.
Adriano's father was the most important person in his life. His father's importance can be understood through the comments made by the striker's Inter Milan teammate Javier Zanetti:
“Adriano had a father who looked after him a lot and kept him in line. But then something unimaginable happened: he got a call from Brazil and was told that his father had died.
“I saw him cry. He threw the phone down and started screaming. From that day on, [Inter chairman Massimo] Moratti and I decided to take him in like a brother and protect him.
“He kept playing football, scoring goals and pointing to the sky, dedicating them to his father. But after that phone call, nothing was the same."
Adriano fell out of love with both the game and life after his father's death. He was seen partying till late regularly and found refuge in alcohol.
“At that time, I only felt happy when I drank,” Adriano said in a 2017 interview. “I could only sleep if I drank. My [Inter] coach, Roberto Mancini, and my team-mates noticed that I was hung over when I arrived for training. And I feared arriving too late, so I didn’t sleep and went to training still drunk. I slept in the medical department and Inter had to tell journalists that I had muscular pain.”
Even though he was having problems off the field, the Brazilian kept scoring goals and inspired Inter Milan to a Serie A title. He also won the Confederations Cup in 2005 with his national side.
Big things were expected of the immensely talented Brazilian side at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. However, they went out of the tournament after losing to France in the quarter-finals, Adriano scored only two goals in the tournament.
Adriano's off the pitch activities started getting highlighted more as he was caught partying in clubs before games. Inter Milan got fed up of his antics and sent him to Brazil on unpaid leave in 2007.
A loan deal was agreed with the Brazilian club Santos but his tenure there was short-lived. Santos sent the striker back to Italy after he turned up late for training on multiple occasions and had altercations with a teammate.
In 2009, Inter Milan revoked his contract and he joined his boyhood team Flamengo. The striker enjoyed a successful season as he scored 19 goals and helped the club win the league title. This made Roma sign him and give him another chance to revive his career. However, his stint with Roma was short-lived. His contract was revoked again as he failed to turn up for a medical.
The forward's last professional appearance came in 2016 for American side Miami United. He now lives in Rio de Janeiro.
It's a shame that Adriano never achieved the success his talent deserved. The world may remember him as another player who wasted his talent, but to his supporters, he will always be 'The Emperor'.Published 25 Aug 2020, 12:39 IST