It is the 14th August 2001 at the Santiago Bernabéu. Being played out on the pitch is one of the most prestigious friendlies of a long-winded summer pre-season. The encounter between Real Madrid and Inter is stuck at 1-1, while with five minutes remaining a 19-year-old Brazilian makes his entrance. A substitution that shook the match in sudden and significant fashion.
Awarded a free kick on the edge of the area, the order came from Cuper that the young lad should take it. A gift for the debutant in a prestigious friendly? Maybe yes, maybe no. The smiling starlet had already shown his skills in training, although his teammates still did not see this coming. Hit at around 180 kilometres per hour, the ball flew straight in under the crossbar. This was how Adriano Leite Ribeiro introduced himself to his news fans, helping those forget, even just for an instant, another Brazilian who had already donned the Nerazzurri shirt previously.
When you grow up in Rocinha, one of the most dangerous and infamous Favela neighbourhoods in Brazil, talent can save your life. And as seen in in Milan, where he became an Emperor for everyone, he demonstrated that he had talent in abundance. He had power, pace and an imposing physique, whilst he was also incredibly passionate. A characteristic that was perhaps a double-edged sword as he progressed. His emotion brought him closer to the fans and his teammates, although it often disrupted his play and development when out on the pitch. However, a perfect demonstration of his raw talent came against Luciano Spalletti’s Udinese side back during the 2004-05 campaign, when he scored an absolutely scintillating brace. These goals were typical of Adriano’s unique style, one that first came to the fore when he was just 19-years-old and conquered Madrid.