Former Brazil striker Adriano has finally opened up on the heartbreaking reason why he departed top-level football at such a young age.
'The Emperor' became a striking sensation in Italy, first for Parma then famously for Inter Milan where he won four Serie A titles. He also scored 27 goals in 48 games for Brazil, including a crucial one in the 2004 Copa America final against Argentina.
However Adriano's prime was cut short by injury and amid rumours that the player's life had spiralled out of control due to his drinking, weight gain and an inability to stay away from the Brazilian favelas he grew up around.
In a deeply-moving first-person account via the Players' Tribune, Adriano has finally given his side of the story, explaining that he never recovered from the death of his father when he was just 22 years old.
"After that day, my love for football was never the same," Adriano explained of the day he got a phone call while in Milan, to tell him his father had died suddenly of a heart attack.
"He loved the game, so I loved the game. It was that simple. It was my destiny. When I played football, I played for my family. When I scored, I scored for my family.
"So when my father died, football was never the same.
"I was across the ocean in Italy, away from my family, and I just couldn't cope with it. I got so depressed, man. I started drinking a lot. I didn't really want to train. It had nothing to do with Inter. I just wanted to go home."
Adriano's form did not immediately decline, but he found it harder and harder to focus on football. Eventually, Adriano would leave Inter on loan and return to Brazil to play for Sao Paulo in 2008.
The streets won't forget 2004-2006 Adriano :fire:- Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 1, 2020
One successful season at Flamengo in 2009 aside, when Adriano scored 19 goals in 30 games, this was all but the end of his football career. In 2016, having not played in two years, he signed for Miami United in the US but left before playing a game.
Adriano admits that a ruptured his Achilles' tendon in 2011 and the surgery that followed contributed to the swift decline in his career.
"When I popped my Achilles in 2011? Man, I knew that's when it was over for me, physically," he explained in the Players' Tribune.
"You can get surgery and rehabilitate it and try to carry on, but you will never be the same. My explosiveness was gone. My balance was gone. Shit, I still walk with a limp. I still have a hole in my ankle.
It was the same thing when my father died. Except the scar was inside me.
"Man, what happened to Adriano?"
Brother, it's simple. I have a hole in my ankle, and one in my soul."
All imagery: PA Images