FC PUNE CITY have pulled off a major coup in the transfer market: after more than a year's trying, they have managed to bring home a striker whose very name commands headlines from football press across the world.
In a well-glamoured event hosted by CEO Gourav Modwel, the name of 36 year old Adrian Mutu was announced to a the cheer of dozens of fans who had gathered at the venue. The signing announcement came a day before ISL's marquee-signing deadline; but the management at the Hritik Roshan co-owned franchise will not mind that one bit, considering last year Mutu failed to get visa on time to play in the inaugural ISL. Now that all of that business is in order, the famous Romanian striker is set to feature for the Stallions in the next two editions of the Indian Super League.
Nicknamed 'Briliantul' by the Italian media, Adrian Mutu is regarded as one of the best strikers to ever play in the Serie A. But his illustrious career has had much of its moments in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, making him one of the most notorious characters in world football.
Mutu spent his youth career at his home club, Romanian Divizia A side Argeș Pitești. He had his senior team debut in March 1997. He stayed with his childhood club till early 1999, racking up 14 goals in 47 appearances. After moving to fellow Divizia A club Dinamo București, he began the 1999-2000 season in explosive fashion, scoring 18 goals in 18 matches. His stint set Dinamo on a path to win the Romanian League, and earned him a transfer to Italian Serie A outfit FC Internazionale Milano in in early 2000, halfway into the season.
Once in Italy, Mutu immediately grabbed headlines by scoring in the Milan Derby just 9 minutes after he came on. His goal helped Inter Milan triumph 3-2 over AC Milan. But his performance in the Serie A was sub-par and come summer 2000, Mutu was sold to fellow Serie A side Hellas Verona FC. That season Mutu struggled to find his best, scoring only 5 goals in 24 appearances in all competitions. Verona itself faced a relegation threat, only surviving it by winning the play-off. Next season things went a little better for Mutu (12 goals in 34 matches) but a lot worse for Verona, who fell into relegation. Early into the 2002-03 season, he moved to Parma FC, and things changed immediately. He scored 18 goals in the Serie A that season, and 4 in Europe. He was the attacking focal point of his team, and his superior finishing and hold-up play attracted attention from some of the biggest names in European football. In the end he was sold to Chelsea, as brand new owner Roman Abramovich splashed €22.5 million in transfer fee.
He started well at Chelsea, but his performance waned off as the season progressed. In the end, his debut season stats at the London club looked a lot less impressive: only 6 goals in the Premier League after 25 appearances; with 4 goals in other competitions. If Mutu thought things could not get worse, he was wrong: the 2004-05 season turned into a nightmare for him.
It started with a very public spat with manager Jose Mourinho. Mutu claimed Mourinho had lied about him being unfit to keep him from playing for his national team. The two fell out and Mutu was left out of the team for a period of time.
But things to a turn for much worse in October 2004 when Mutu's drug test came back positive for cocaine. He was immediately released from the club. FA imposed a 7 month ban on him, along with a £20,000 fine. But the saga did not end there. Chelsea sued him for damages in 2005, which they won. Mutu kept appealed against that decision at various levels, losing each time. But the case is still going on, with Mutu choosing to take Chelsea to the European Court for Human Rights with his appeals against the damages. As it stands, he owes Chelsea more than €17 million, unless the sentence is ultimately overturned.
Adrian's career, however, did not stand still. He played for a while at Juventus, helping them win the 2005-06 Serie A title with his 7 goals from 32 league appearances. But controversy struck again as the biggest scandal in the history of Italian football was exposed: implicating several top clubs in Serie A and Serie B for collusion, game rigging and favourable picking of referees in a massive scale. Juventus was hit the hardest, resulting in them being stripped of two back-to-back Serie A titles, and being relegated to Serie B.
When Juventus went down, Adrian moved on to Fiorentina, also accused in the scandal but not punished with relegation (they were ousted from the 2006-07 UEFA Champions League, and had to play two home games behind closed doors). There he would go on to have some of the finest seasons in his club career. His debut season at the new club saw him 16 league goals and earn the prestigious Guerin d'Oro award for individual performance. Soon he became the Fiorentina captain. By the time he parted way with them, he had racked up 70 goals for them in 5 years across all competitions.
He joined AC Cesena in 2011, and after one season with them (9 goals in 29 appearances) moved to Ligue 1 side AC Ajaccio (11 goals in 35 matches). He returned to Romania during the 2013-14 season to play for Petrolul Ploiesti, where he has been used sparingly until now.
His national team career, too, is equally illustrious and frought with controversy. He made his debut for the Romania senior team in 2000, and represented them in two Euro Cup tournaments. He earned 77 international caps and scored 35 times, and helped Romania avoid defeat in every game where he scored bar one. He became the national team's captain and won the Romanian Player of the Year award 5 times in a row: from 2003 to 2007.
But here, too, he got in trouble for indiscipline. He was caught drinking with a teammate while the rest of the team played an international friendly. This resulted in a 3 match ban. Again, in November 2013, he was banned from the national team when he posted an insulting picture of Romania manager Victor Piţurcă on Facebook. He has not played for the national team since.
Although a large section of the football pundits believe Mutu's irresponsible behaviour prevented him from reaching his full potential, the player himself has no regrets; he is certainly not going to change who he is.
And just in case that point was not clear enough, here's Mutu in all his swagger-maxed glory, co-starring in a music video by rapper Snoop Dogg:
There is little doubt that fans around the globe will have their eyes on how Mutu performs at Pune City. The charismatic striker has good things to say about manager David Platt, and his experience and skills with the ball provide the perfect foil to Pune City's other striker, the young and fast Yendrick Ruiz. Not to mention Mutu would be a dream target man for midfielders like Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Jackichand Singh Didier Zokora. Even though Pune City started their overseas signings late, their squad now looks well-rounded, with a few possible additions still to come.
The upcoming season is crucial for Pune City, as they struggle to make their mark in Indian football. After a mediocre debut season, they have sent their roots deep this time, coming up with plans for an academy and other programmes to connect with the city they represent. But performing on the field remains their biggest task, and if their aggressive purchasing at the ISL Auction as well as the open transfer market is anything to go by, they are making some solid headway.