Adriano's career should have been stellar if his video game counterpart was anything to go by. Josh Clarke reports on life vrs Pro Evo.
I couldn't believe it when I saw that earlier this month Adriano was awarded the Bidone d'oro – the proverbial wooden spoon, or 'Golden Bin', handed out by Italian Rai Radio 2 listeners to Serie A's worst performer. I was even more flabbergasted to learn that he was a repeat offender. His latest win (or lose depending how you look at it) completes the most undesirable of hat-tricks.
I can't understand it. The Bidone d'oro?! Surely he should be up for the Ballon d'Or.
This Brazilian is a man who eats raw superlatives for breakfast. A strapping figure, strong as an ox with a left peg that combines the jack hammer strength of Roberto Carlos and the delicate artistry of Lionel Messi. A quintessential target man, yet perfectly adept at coming in off either flank and letting an unstoppable one rip into the stanchion. Capable one minute of putting his head down and charging through a brick wall, the next, providing an exquisite feint of step that would make Georgi Kinkladze look like a lumbering oaf.
If one thing is for sure, it's that Adriano will get you a guaranteed three goals per game. In fact, if you're Inter, then there's absolutely no chance that anyone playing against you stands a …
It's just clicked that, somewhere along the lines, I've gone horribly wrong. If you trust the judgment of Italian radio listeners, then there is undoubtedly an almighty chasm that exists between the disheveled Adriano currently doing the rounds at AS Roma and the Adriano I know and love, the titan of Pro Evolution soccer.
When Adriano sealed the deal with Konami and, along with John Terry, became the poster boy of Pro Evolution 6 he would have received quite the substantial pay packet. Also thrown into the mixer was the actuality of becoming the best player in the world, by a country mile. Well, in a sense.
As a platform for such an outrageously skilled player to showcase their talents, Pro Evolution 6 is about as optimal as they come. This was back in the days when the Konami franchise wasn't getting routinely bashed by FIFA's latest releases and indeed the game itself received a dizzying 10/10 score from PlayStation 2 magazine. Consequently, the game's golden boy had to be equally as indomitable. And Adriano really was. Anyone who has played Pro Evo 6, or the couple versions after can testify to the fact that once you learned how to tame and utilize the beast, it was always going to be a heavy goal-slide in your direction.
Sadly though, the giddy heights reached by Adriano at the world's PlayStation shoot button provided a smokescreen for the deteriorating talent of his living, breathing counterpart.
As you would expect of a man who graced the front of a computer game, it all started pretty decently.
The season before flogging his image rights to Konami is the year it all really begun to kick-off for Adriano. His name was certainly doing the rounds before that, but 40 domestic and international goals in a season will do a whole lot to bolster a burgeoning reputation. What seems remarkable though, is that Adriano's downturn in fortune seems to coincide with his fateful appearance on front of the Pro Evolution box. The first Bidone d'oro in his name actually came in 2006, the year of the game's release. His goal scoring exploits of the previous season became a flash-in-the-pan which he was never able to replicate.
A catalogue of problems including battles with alcoholism, disciplinary issues, fluctuating weight, non-attendance at training as well as an inability to say no to a good party, led to Adriano sharply dropping off the radar. A reasonably profitable return at Flamingo flirted with a return to happier times, yet a move back to Italy with AS Roma failed to capture the imagination and ultimately left football fan's the world over wondering what could have been.
How then, has this glorified, digital image of Adriano burned itself into my mind, replacing the uninspiring career trajectory of the real thing? Undoubtedly a misspent childhood, shirking homework and spitting my dummy out if people either a) told me I wasn't allowed to be Inter or b) were advocates of a random team selection – clearly played a large part.
The fact that Adriano himself described Pro Evo as 'the most realistic football game around', whilst in retrospect seems like wishful thinking, actually works as a double-edged sword. It was all well and good when we were just enjoying the game for what it was, but in a sinister, malevolent way, his digital self almost seems to have effaced the real Adriano and created a worldwide and unattainable ideal for the player which he was doomed never to match up to.
Luckily enough, there's some theoretical thinking out there that goes a long to way to providing a reasonable explanation for this curious phenomenon. To a plethora of different minds, postmodernism means a number of often contrasting things. Which makes it somewhat difficult to wrestle down a cohesive unitary definition or mode of understanding for a singular 'postmodern' theory.
French sociologist and general doom-mongerer Jean Baudrillard, though, is widely considered to be the not only one of the initial movers and shakers in the school of thought but is generally acknowledged as one of its most radical and influential proponents. The central and recurrent theme in Baudrillard's work is the idea that postmodernism is concerned with the obliteration of nature by culture – in particular the replacement of the what is real by signs, to which he designates the term simulacrum.
Already, through just an overview, the relevance of Baudrillard's mad upstairs wanderings begin to shed a bit of light on the Adriano conundrum. If we delve into the Frenchman's The Precession of the Simulacrum, this illumination becomes a little more lucid. Baudrillard talks about the 'image', which begins as a representation of a reality but soon morphs into a totally unrecognizable entity which engulfs the very thing it it is representing:
“Such would be the successive phases of the image: it is the reflection of a profound reality; it masks and denatures a profound reality; it masks the absence of a profound reality; it has no relation to any reality whatsoever; it is its own pure simulacrum.”
And so, with Adriano. The successive phases of the image can be used to track the intertwined relationship of Adriano the real and Adriano the representation and how, for me at least, one replaced the other. Naturally, it begun as a mere 'reflection'. With the real Adriano lashing in goals a plenty, a similarly distinguished prodigy was given life by Konami.
As the real Adriano began to see the bottom of the bottle more often than the back of the net, the representation began to 'mask and denature' the reality, probably further concreted every time someone picked the ball up from 40 yards out and rattled one in off the far post.
Things began to spiral out of control when the real Adriano walked out of his contract with Inter, yet on the PlayStation, he was still proudly sporting the black and blue stripes and scoring diving headers from outside the penalty area (This is possible by the way. I have such an example saved on a now defunct PS2 memory card for any non-believers) – the image truly masked the 'absence' of the reality.
Finally, after years in football wilderness and picking up a hat-trick of Bidone d'oros, the representation finally bears 'no relation to any reality whatsoever'. After years of scoring goals that would make Juninho Pernambucano squeal with delight like a schoolgirl, the contrast and unchanging image of Adriano replaced what was going on the in the real world. The true Adriano has become victim of postmodernist logic, losing his identity to a representation of himself that has become more real than he is.
It's clearly too sensationalist to suggest that this is an adequate reasoning behind Adriano's fall from grace. For reasons diffused and wide-ranging Adriano has become widely acknowledged as one of Serie A's biggest flops and it could just be that one of these may be the overzealous expectation levels set from becoming the Pro Evolution Soccer world's number one gunslinger.
Probably not though. Either way, if you were to ask me which Adriano I prefer, the one I controlled with my fingertips, who struck true fear into the heart of my opposition on the sofa wins hands down.
You can see more of Josh’s work at www.the39thgame.blogspot.com, and follow him on Twitter @joshkclarke