The season preceding the 2004 Copa America saw 21-year-old Adriano begin the season playing on a co-ownership deal at Parma from Inter and finishing it in scintillating form for the Nerazzurri, scoring 12 goals in 18 games. Italy was witnessing the growth of what was promising to be a physically powerful striker who made little error in his finishing.
His Inter form saw him called up to the Brazil 2004 Copa America squad, one that saw stars of 2002 like Ronaldo and Ronaldinho dropped in favour of a more youthful squad. Adriano did not let up. Such was his domination of the 2004 Copa America that he earned the nickname ‘The Emperor’ as he stormed his way to seven goals, top scorer of the tournament. This included a hat-trick against Costa Rica and a stunning volley against Argentina in injury-time in the final to save Brazil’s Copa which Adriano described “the
Both domestically and internationally the future seemed bright for Adriano in 2004 yet the signs of what would emerge later in his career was existent then. Reflected in his strike partner Luis Fabiano too, his work rate would only exist when the ball came to him and his poor attitude was also seen on the pitch. However, for the three years following the 2004 Copa his fine form continued, with the occasional minor misdemeanours. From 2004 to 2006 he scored 46 goals in 89 Inter appearances, winning several titles along the way.
Yet now in 2011, Adriano is sitting out injured yet to make an appearance for Corinthians who he signed for in March after battling with alcoholism and extreme weight gain. He had signed as a free agent after Roma tore up his contract in March 2011 after only seven months and five games at the club with his lack of training attendance the focal point of the termination. He was recently barracked by the Brazilian press for being pictured at a nightclub while supposedly nursing his injury and his party lifestyle may well have stopped him becoming spoken of in the breath of other Brazilian greats like Ronaldo and Rivaldo.
It is said that Adriano was never the player he promised after the death of his father shortly after the 2004 Copa. While experiencing good seasons with Inter after the death, he has experienced psychological problems, saying in 2009: “I have stopped my career for a while because I have lost the joy of playing, it could be one, two or three months. There is big pressure in Italy. I don’t want to return to Italy. I want to live in peace here in Brazil.” While returning to Flamengo, playing for Roma and playing for Corinthians since has kept him on the footballing map, it is likely that the 2004 Copa America was the best the world will see of The Emperor.