Strikers get another chance

In a week dominated by the long-awaited return of the domestic season together with the back-pages being awash with transfer rumour and speculation ahead of next week’s closing of the summer window, many stories are likely to resonate more than two transfer deals involving players who once held high stock in Europe only to see their star fall with the same ruthlessness they once displayed in front of goal on a regular basis.

The players in question here are Adrian Mutu, the Romanian attacker once of Chelsea who failed a drugs test through the use of cocaine, and former Inter Milan striker Adriano, once prolific, only to see his career beset by personal problems and injuries that pushed him to the brink of quitting the game.

As the likes of Notts County’s Lee Hughes have found, football is forever unlikely to turn its back on a player who still has the willingness and ability to make a difference to a potential suitor. Hughes, found guilty of death by dangerous driving back in 2004, has not put off Oldham and Notts County as any issues with a lack of morality in handing Hughes a rehabilitating living have been dismissed with a fruitful goals return for both clubs since his release from prison.

But of course, it is hard to make similarities between the cases of Adriano and Mutu to that of Hughes for they are a lot less severe, but nonetheless an indication of the sport’s refusal to cast aside the individuals who experience such problems off the pitch. There can be only explanation into why there is still a demand for QPR’s Joey Barton, a player blighted by angst and poor behaviour both in and out of the realm of football, while he honours a 12 match ban for violent conduct; regardless of football’s problems with ethics and morality, there is always a place for those who have their talent betrayed by stupidity, perhaps in the naïve hope they may be encouraged to start on the straight and narrow in fresh surroundings.

At the very top level however, it is unlikely to be the case, explaining why Mutu and Adriano have had to find homes in footballing backwaters. Mutu has moved to French Ligue 1 side Aj Ajaccio after his release from Serie B side Cesena, the dullest of ignominy for a player who was once hitting 18 goals from 31 games at Parma to earn his Premier League move. Yet, it is a better prospect than the striker may have feared when FIFA ordered him to pay nigh on £18 million in compensation to Chelsea for failing a doping test, or even when he failed a second doping test playing for Fiorentina in 2010. Still the player scores goals, he hit 54 in five years on the banks of Florence and another 8 for Cesena, this has proved to be of more appeal to Ajaccio than the problems that have chased him off the field.

The same liberal acceptance has befallen Adriano at Flamengo in a league that has seemingly become a cushion for Brazilians when their powers begin to decline in Europe. Robinho, Ronaldinho and the original Ronaldo have all returned there in recent years for differing reasons, whether it is loss of form or personal issues. It is both of those that have engulfed Adriano who, at 30 years of age, should be at the height of his powers. However, “the Emperor” as he was known around the same time he was topping the scoring charts in 2004 Copa America and 205 Confederations Cup, has undergone such a sharp drop that Corinthians decided to cut their losses on the striker after his weight problems saw him swell to over the 100 kilogram mark; he ended up making just 7 appearances in his on year spell at the Sao Paulo club.

But Flamengo have failed to see the attraction in watching a former hero in Adriano be cast to the wilderness at a relatively early age and have decided to take a punt on the striker who scored 19 goals during his last spell with Flamengo in 2009, handing him a “productivity deal” in the hope he may be able to rediscover some of the form from his earlier days that has warranted his decline as such a footballing shame.

These two transfers will not pull up any trees as multi-million pound transfers of Luka Modric and Robin Van Persie take precedence in domestic waters, but they should go someway to restoring faith in football’s streak of acceptance in a community that refuses to let a talent rot should he have something to offer. While not making the headlines anymore, Mutu and Adriano deserve to make a living, or at least have a shot at making a living, again in the sport they have been blessed at being good at.