Parma AC's Brazilian sensation Adriano possesses the most deadly left foot in Serie A.
By Richard Whittle
Six goals in five Serie A games for Parma AC have made Adriano the league's joint top scorer with AC Milan's Andriy Shevchenko - and another strike in the first leg of his side's UEFA Cup tie at FC Metalurh Donetsk is further testament to that prolific form.
"I love to score - that is what gives me my greatest joy," Adriano said. "When I first came to Italy I knew it would be tough but I have worked hard and will continue to do so. This is just the start."
Tall and powerfully built with a deft touch honed playing Futsal in his native Rio de Janeiro, the 21-year-old does not lack confidence. However, his perceived arrogance and selfishness are things he has tried to temper. "You should have seen me a few years ago," he declared. "I'm more of a team player now."
Adriano has had to mature this season after the transfer of his strike partner Adrian Mutu to Chelsea FC left coach Cesare Prandelli's pre-season plans in ruins. A major revamp to a 4-2-3-1 formation shifted the onus of attack on to the young Brazilian international.
The switch paid instant dividends when Adriano opened the campaign with two goals in a 2-2 draw at Bologna FC and followed that with a penalty in the 3-0 home victory against AC Perugia. However, it was a 3-2 victory at S.S. Lazio that highlighted his ability as a target man. Although predominantly left-footed, he can turn as adroitly as his great friend Ronaldo - as three Lazio defenders found to their cost before he dispatched a fierce angled drive past Matteo Sereni.
Such a goal does not come free of charge. Adriano is a Parma player in name only, having joined Internazionale FC from CR Flamengo in August 2001 for €5m, before being loaned to AC Fiorentina. Parma president Stefano Tanzi then paid €17.3m for a two-year half-share in the player - a deal which expires this summer.
Inter owner Massimo Moratti announced that he would bring Adriano back to the club although Tanzi had shrewdly stipulated when first brokering the deal that the 'return sale' would cost Inter €20m. Adriano maintained his distance from the affair, saying: "I'm not even thinking of Inter. My future is with Parma and I want to grow with this team. It was here that I got into the national team, and I owe them a lot."
In turn, Parma rely heavily on Adriano as the first leg of their tie against Metalurh proved. Starting on the bench, Adriano was introduced after an hour to score the equaliser in a 1-1 draw. "I can't score without the help of my team-mates," he said modestly after the match.
However, despite his commitment to Parma, Adriano is thinking big. He astonished many, not least Moratti, when he said on national television that the only team that could accommodate his style would be AC Milan. "I was just answering a question on a formation that would suit me," said Adriano, nonplussed by the resulting furore.
A move back to the city of Milan seems likely but in the meantime Adriano will get plenty of shooting practice as Parma's lone striker and, of course, work on that right foot. "It is something that annoys me that I'm useless with my right, but I have been working every day to improve that," he said. Should he find a right foot as lethal as his left, he could become a legend.