- Aug 2, 2005
In the city which hosts the Derby della Mole, one man is busy trying to cast aside his demons and rebuild his career. Dominique Antognoni exclusively chats to Juventus’ reborn Adrian Mutu
We’re in Turin, just a few paces away from the Porta Nuova station in the Da Urbani restaurant, the place where Juventus transfer guru Luciano Moggi has his one little ‘office’. We enter with Adrian Mutu for a bite to eat and he’s greeted as if it was his own home. The owner’s wife, the classical 50-year-old Piemontese woman with her elegance and smile, gives him a kiss on his cheek. One of the waitresses, a fellow Romanian, salutes him and immediately leads him to a reasonably isolated area of the restaurant and presents him with what he loves to eat. Every now and again, someone gets up from their table and kindly asks for his autograph.
Adrian Mutu has the perfect life. That may sound odd, but that is what he has been living for the past few months. He has Juventus, a new wife, the expectation of a second child and his negative past firmly behind him. “I’m very happy and I have greatly matured,” he says. “I understood that my life needs to be set in a city like Turin and in a great club such as Juventus.” It’s amazing and touching to see how happy Mutu now is. He smiles, he’s tranquil again and people are all too willing to stop him in the street and offer him a handshake.
For those who have known him for life, it’s almost a shock to hear Mutu speak as he does today. After all, it is easy for a 20-year-old to act in a certain way when you are handed millions of dollars to wear an Inter shirt alongside the likes of Ronaldo, Christian Vieri and Roberto Baggio. It wouldn’t be odd to feel a sensation that you are the King of the World.
He was placed in a similar situation in London. He was living a dream thanks to his £3m a year contract, numerous other lucrative sponsorship deals and a simply scintillating start to life in the Premiership. However, perhaps inevitably, something disastrous occurred with the cocaine scandal and his sacking by Chelsea and he awoke to the reality that he could have ruined everything. He was only fortunate in the fact that he woke up. Without Juventus, who knows what his manner would be like right now?
That’s life, all you can do is take what it gives you and get on with it. Things eventually turned out well for Mutu, but he has understood that he was fortunate enough to be given a second chance in the knowledge that he will not be handed a third. However, you can tell by the sentences he strings together that the ban he was handed for his failed dope test has left a mark.
“I accept that I made a mistake, yet at the same time I hurt nobody apart from myself,” he argued. “I had to listen to some incredible fury aimed at me in my homeland of Romania. They put me on the front pages of newspapers with headlines that were criminal. That after the English media, apart from a few sections, treated me very well and their conduct was a factor in why I only got an eight-month ban.
“However, instead of defending or helping me in Romania, they simply attacked me on a daily basis and that is as much as I am going to say on the matter. My relationship with them now is good, but not like it was at one stage of my career. Anyway, I learnt a lot throughout that negative period.”
So what about the Italian Press? “If I have to be honest then I will have to admit that I have got a little tired of reading their articles which relate to my drug use,” he sighs. “They always make a reference to it after a positive performance by saying ‘he’s now left his drug problems behind him’ or something like that. It’s as if I was considered as a bad boy for ages, but the truth is that I made a few mistakes in the space of just a couple of months. The most disappointing thing is that nobody ever asked me why I turned to cocaine. They were able to track down strippers and get quotes about me drinking their blood like Dracula or something, but they couldn’t bring themselves to ask me why I was in that situation.”
There is no resentment in his words though, probably because he has now overcome his personal crisis thanks to his phenomenal spell of good form. “I have shown the whole world and especially myself that I have real character, that I am not spoilt but that I’m a man who made a mistake and understood my errors.”
Things haven’t just improved on the pitch for Mutu, his private life is also on the right track again after it was derailed for a time in West London. “Consuelo gives me a great amount of tranquillity and that is what I was looking for,” he says. She’s also a beautiful young woman, one who is set to give birth to Mutu’s second son at Easter. His first child, three-year-old Mario, lives with his ex-wife Alexandra Dinu in Milan. “He kicks the ball around, but it is too soon to work out whether he will turn into a footballer,” says Dad.
The conversation naturally passes to Juventus, Fabio Capello and the season. “Juventus are a mad club,” the former Verona player comments. “You feel protected and are therefore allowed to concentrate on only winning. Capello has given, and gives, me a lot, that is why I am more than happy to play on the wing – a position which isn’t mine. When Juventus call, you must always be ready.”
Some critics will moan that the previous response was the usual diplomatic answer from a footballer. Yet that just isn’t the case if you look at the effort he is putting in on the field of play. Although being used out of position on either side of midfield, instead of Mauro Camoranesi or Pavel Nedved, he is giving his all out there.
With the former Parma man being fielded as a wide midfielder rather than in his preferred striker role, it’s fuelled rumours of a reunion with his ex-Tardini boss Cesare Prandelli at Fiorentina. But Mutu has rejected these claims. “I salute Prandelli and compliment him on his success, but I am more than happy at Juve,” he stated. “As for my position, we accept Fabio Capello’s decisions without discussion. I will gladly play out wide as long as I can play football and try to give my best. I always want to improve and never feel completely happy with my performance.”
Mutu knows that he’s going to have to play where he can for the time being given the competition in his natural role. A second striker of the highest level, the 26-year-old is understandably finding it tough to displace either Alessandro Del Piero or Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the starting XI. Adrian has great hunger for success though which he has so far just missed out on or played through as a non-protagonist. After all, he ‘won’ two League titles with Chelsea and Juventus last term. But the 2004-05 campaign is one that Mutu understandably wishes never occurred.
Interviewed: January 2006