One of the main stories of the beginning of this Fiorentina transfer window was Adrian Mutu's surprise return on the scene. The out of contract fenomeno considered a swansong on the banks of river Arno. It was all but a done deal for him to start training with Fiorentina again but at the last second, the legendary trequartista changed his mind, deciding to stay in Romania close to his sick mother and end his football career. Between producing magic on, and scandals off the pitch, one thing is for sure - his career was anything but boring.
Mutu was first introduced to a big scene in 1999, when he signed for Inter, filled with superstars like Ronaldo, Vieri, Zamorano, Baggio etc. It was hard for a young player to find consistency there, so his adventure continued, from Hellas Verona, where he met one of the two most important people for his career - Alberto Malesani - through Parma where he met the other one - Cesare Prandelli - and then on to Chelsea, Livorno and Juventus, until he finally found his way to Fiorentina in 2006. By that time, Mutu had already been through a lot, as a player and as a person. He had a kid, divorced his wife, moved to a team in a new country and league and... had his contract terminated because of failing a common drug test. It wasn't a fun part of Adrian Mutu's life, but when he came back to Italy, to Juventus, he seemed to feel his old self again.
But it wasn't until he was reunited with the coach from his Parma days, Cesare Prandelli, that he became the player that he can be, the difference between success and failure for his team. He was named player of the season in Serie A by the RAI, but more importantly, he made Florence dream again. Like that night in Eindhoven, in the UEFA Cup quarter finals in the spring of 2008. After a thin 1-1 at home, few thought the viola could reach the semifinals. But Mutu has, like the best players do, performed his best in the most important matches. He drove the Dutch defenders crazy and scored two goals, the first of which being one of the best free kicks you'll see. Mutu was the kind of player that gave you the impression that when he played, everything would be ok. Even on nights less impressive than the one in Eindhoven, he could, and did, make something out of nothing. Even if the dream was crushed in the semifinals after a penalty shootout with Rangers, Mutu still inspired the best Fiorentina season since coming back from the dead.
A few months after the Eindhoven game, Mutu could have joined Roma, but he chose to stay. He loved Florence as much as Florence loved him. After taking Fiorentina to fifth place in the season when some were afraid that relegation might be on the cards due to a points deduction, then reaching the UEFA Cup semis and securing the Champions League spot, it seemed like everything was perfect, both for Fiorentina and Mutu himself. But it couldn't last forever. Slowly but surely, depression crept into Mutu's life again. It was probably helped by the series of injuries that kept him out for the most part of the 2009/10 season. That the end of his time in Florence was nearing became evident in January of 2010. Mutu tested positive for doping and received a nine month suspension (later reduced to six). He stayed with Fiorentina, apologized to everyone and, seemingly, everything was ok again. But it wasn't. He would leave a training session and get a suspension from the club. Or he'd get himself on the pages of tabloids after wild nights out. It hurt to see your hero sabotage his life and career. It hurt all of Florence.
In the summer of 2011, he had to say goodbye to the club he spent the longest amount of his career with, and joined Cesena. He nearly singlehandedly saved them from relegation, but the Seahorses went down, and the two sides rescinded the contract. In fact, Mutu had his contract terminated (by mutual consent or... less so) five times - by Chelsea, Fiorentina, Cesena, Ajjacio and Petrolul which probably makes him unique, at least among the top players.
His career resembled that of the great Diego Armando Maradona, except the highs weren't as high, but the lows... He hit them on quite a few occasions. His life sort of resembles the (anti) heroes of the country songs. He offered so much joy to the fans, but there is always going to be the feeling that he could have and maybe should have done more. But just like those country songs, the story of Adrian Mutu is a story about self-destruction more than anything. And you cannot help but wonder, what could have been? What if he hadn't used cocaine back in his London days? His career would have undoubtedly have been much better - and his life easier - but, and this is extremely selfish -- then he would have never become a Fiorentina player. And for those few peak years in the purple, he had it. He was the phenomenon. He was worthy of Antognoni's and Rui Costa's shirt. The last great Fiorentina number 10.