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Adriano: The spectacular rise and fall of Inter's 'Emperor'

Adriano Leite Ribeiro - more simply known as Adriano - is considered the ultimate cult hero for a certain generation of football fans. Brazil has produced a seemingly endless line of talented attacking players throughout their history, from all the way back to Pele's glorious heyday to the current Neymar-led era. But Adriano was a special case.

There has never been a striker who inspired fear in his fellow man quite like the 6'2 titan from Rio de Janeiro. He was strong, blisteringly quick and technically brilliant, with a cannon for a left foot that famously earned him overpowered shooting statistics on Pro Evolution Soccer.

Even Swedish maverick Zlatan Ibrahimovic was left completely in awe of Adriano's quality in the prime years of his career. "He could shoot from every angle, nobody could tackle him, nobody could take the ball, he was a pure animal," the former Inter striker told Sport Bible in 2020.

However, there was a caveat to Ibrahimovic's assessment. "I enjoyed playing with him, playing against him, but it's a shame that it lasted such a short time," he added. "Fifty percent of everything you do is the mental part. If you don't have it in your head, it's difficult."

Adriano scored 74 goals in 177 games during his time at Inter, and recorded another 27 for Brazil at international level - which would be respectable totals for most centre-forwards. But he could have been a record-breaker had it not been for his unpredictable temperament.

His time at the top only lasted for a very short while, and his public decline was painful to watch. Adriano's career may be the most agonising 'what if?' story football has ever known.

That hasn't prevented his legend from growing year after year, though. And as Inter now stand on the brink of their fourth European Cup success, it seems a fitting time to look back on Adriano's incredible impact at San Siro and on the wider footballing world.

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