The power behind his strikes is similar to the reverberations from his words. When Adriano speaks about Inter, he has the ability to generate emotions in others and himself by looking back at the memories that saw him dubbed the “Emperor”, singing the chants that the fans used to devote to him from the terraces and remembering his stunning goals, such as the remarkable strike against Udinese after a 60-metre charge. Talent and pure footballing passion along with a relentless desire to stick the ball in the net saw the Brazilian bag 74 goals for the club, getting the fans off their seats at regular intervals.
The subject of the first episode of the Inter TV Careers series dedicated to club legends sees Adriano kick things off with his maiden goal for the club.
“That was my debut for Inter at 19 when I took the free kick against Real Madrid and I remember it very well. [Clarence] Seedorf and I had been practising free kicks in training in the week leading up to it and he could see how hard I could hit the ball. He suggested I should take it even though [Marco] Materazzi wanted it for himself, so he said, ‘This is Adri’s’. Feeling that he had that confidence in me was important for me. I’d just joined Inter and luckily, I was able to score a brilliant goal. I couldn’t believe it when it went in. I was 19 and it was a dream for me to play for Inter. There were top players at the club and I was part of the team, too. I felt so lucky to be playing alongside them. It was a big deal for me and my family. I desperately wanted to show what I could do and that gave me the confidence that I needed.
“That’s Ronaldo, Seedorf and a young me. Being around players of that calibre was incredible. Even looking back now it seems strange. As for whether I heard comparisons with Ronaldo, no, there was nothing in that. He was the ‘Fenomeno’ and he showed that throughout his career, but we aren’t the same. He used to take me to La Pinetina because I lived at his house for a while and I remember he’d always tell me that if I wanted to go far, I had to fight and always look ahead to help my family. He was like an older brother to me.
“There are some goals I still can’t quite believe when I watch them back. I just can’t fathom them! I was in good form and I was trying things that were coming off for me. When your head is in the right place and you’re in good shape, incredible things can happen naturally. I scored a wonderful goal against Udinese. I’d gone back to Brazil just before that game and had had little rest with the jet lag, but I still wanted to play. As for what I was thinking, I just drove towards goal. There were three players in my way. I got away from the first one, the other two were backing off into the box, so I went to my left and stuck the ball in the top corner. There was nothing they could do! I think that was one of my best along with the one in the Copa America final. I’ve always been myself, just as I was when I was a young lad. I’ve always listened to everyone around me, which is key. You have to listen to others because there’s always something to learn. We have to be humble to improve more and more.
“The Milan derby is similar to Brazil v Argentina. You have a huge responsibility as a player. Everything rides on that game and there are so many emotions involved. When I went back to the stadium for the derby, I had a film playing back in my head, which was so emotional. It’s hard to put into words what those games are about when you’re involved. You only really know if you’ve played in it. We were all so focused and desperate to do well ahead of that fixture. You also have a huge responsibility in a derby. When I was fit, it was hard to stop me. If I wasn’t playing at my best and then suddenly turned in a top performance, Materazzi would always say, ‘The Emperor is back!’ What mattered to me is that whenever I was on the pitch, I always did everything I could to help my team. When I went through tough times, Inter always supported me. Having friends who didn’t just see me as a player, but also as a brother, was so important for me and I’m grateful to everyone.
“I have to thank the fans, as they’ve always shown me so much love. You gave me the name of the ‘Emperor’ and even today I struggle to comprehend the fact that it related to me. Every time I come to Italy, I feel so loved and that makes me so happy. This will always be my second house.”