Reformed Mutu holds key
Adrian Mutu has bounced back from his Chelsea drugs shame and is now the heartbeat of a Romania side that could be a surprise package.
Last Updated: 21/05/08 2:50pm
Adrian Mutu's career looked over when he was sacked by Chelsea for cocaine use and then banned from the game for seven months in November 2004.
Yet as Euro 2008 approaches, Mutu is the heartbeat of a Romania side that promises to be one of the major surprise packages of the tournament.
They face a difficult task to qualify for the knockout stages after being drawn in the 'Group of Death' along with Holland, France and Italy.
But the Romanians have blossomed under coach Victor Piturca. He is desperate for success after guiding the nation to the finals of Euro 2000 only to find himself sacked before the finals took place.
But Piturca, a former striker of some repute in his playing days, has built his side around the reformed Mutu and it has paid dividends.
Mutu always insisted he would return "a stronger player all round at the highest possible level".
His redemption has been remarkable and it was largely spurred at club level by the now England coach Fabio Capello.
When Juventus signed him after he had been sacked by Chelsea, it was largely heralded as opportunism, but it was also a gamble.
From a football point of view the move was at most a qualified success, with many of his handful of appearances coming in midfield.
He was offloaded to Fiorentina at the end of the season but that gave him a foothold back into the big time.
It was in Florence, appropriately enough, that his renaissance began. For one thing, he found in Cesare Prandelli a coach with whom he formed an immediate bond.
Mutu has spoken often of his affection for a man who has become his mentor. "He is like a second father for me," Mutu said.
"He knows me so well I have no secrets from him. He's not just a great coach but a great person. I'm lucky to work with someone like him."
However, Mutu also acknowledges the debt he owes to former Juventus boss Capello, who gave him his second chance.
"I am very happy with Fiorentina," he said.
"But I cannot forget that Capello and Juventus came through for me when nobody else wanted to know.
"Juventus made a crazy bet and I think that they won. I definitely won, because Capello believed in me and knew how to use me.
"I was shocked at first to play in midfield, but then I understood that I had to give everything to prove to him that I was the right man for his plans."
Mutu has how found the stability he craved. He married Dominican model Consuelo Matos in July 2005, and in June last year they had a daughter, Adriana.
He is also happy in Florence despite interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid.
"Florence is home for me," he said. "People here love me and I have forgotten about the cocaine and my sad time in London.
"Recently my agent Alessandro Moggi presented me with some offers from Premiership clubs, but without meaning any offence, I would not go back to London if they paid me a fortune in gold.
"I've got nothing against English people - they are very nice and they are crazy for football - and the Premier League is clearly a great competition, but nowhere is as good as Florence for me."
Romania's qualification for Euro 2008 means he is close to fulfilling the second part of the promise he made in the wilderness three years ago.
"I am very confident that I will show great things with Romania in the summer," he said.
"My greatest happiness was to qualify for the Euros and to show that our generation can make the Romanian people proud like in the old days of Hagi. Football has given me a lot. I am the luckiest man in the world."