On this day in 2004, the often underappreciated Adriano Leite Ribeiro shocked the world with a never-seen-before piece of skill during a Champions League clash between Valencia and Inter Milan at the Estadio de Mestalla.
The Brazilian was in the form of his life at the time.
He’d joined Inter Milan in a €23.4 million deal from Parma in January and, after a remarkable start to the 2004/05 season, where he netted seven goals in Brazil’s Copa America campaign, the 24-year-old was quickly establishing himself as one of the most feared strikers in world football.
He duly lived up to expectation for the majority of that campaign, especially in the Champions League, where he scored seven goals in Europe’s elite competition – and one of those magic left-footed strikes came against a strong Valencia outfit.
But it wasn’t his goal that grabbed the headlines.
Adriano, running towards goal at full speed, knocked the ball past experienced goalkeeper Santiago Canizares before pulling off a quite sublime 360-roulette nutmeg on defender David Navarro in the penalty area. Just check out the footage below.
In one swift movement, Adriano left the Spanish centre-back scrambling before hitting the side-netting with a poor effort. It was a ‘what could have been’ moment for the Brazilian; an unfortunate series of events that summed up his career in football.
It must be remembered that in Adriano’s first two full seasons at Inter, the Brazilian forward scored 29 goals in 60 games but ultimately, he would never recapture that form after several injuries and the death of his father.
“When he had the phone call about the death of his father, we were in the room. He thumped the phone [back on the hook] and began screaming in a way that one can’t imagine. It still shivers me today.” Zanetti told Tutto Mercato.
“From that day, Massimo Moratti and I treated him as a younger brother. He continued to play football, scoring and dedicating his goals to his father by pointing to the sky. But after that phone call, nothing was the same as before.
“We weren’t able to pull him out of the tunnel of depression. That was my biggest defeat, I felt powerless.”
Zanetti added just how good he and his teammates believed Adriano would become.
“When he scored that goal at Real Madrid, I said to myself that we’d found the new Ronaldo.” he continued.
“One night, Ivan Cordoba shared a room with him and told him he was a mix between Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and asked him if he was aware that he would become the world’s best.”