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Adrian Mutu (Romania)

Adrian Mutu has known literally the ups and downs in a remarkable career and at Euro

2008 he will hope that the ultimate high in terms of European international football will be experienced with the title of Romania being crowned champions of their continent. The 29-year-old has come back from a seven-month suspension for taking cocaine during an unhappy spell at Premiership giants Chelsea to becoming indispensable to revived Serie A outfit Juventus, for whom he has scored 16 times this season and once again shown that under coach Cesare Prandelli he is an effective player.

Prandelli had been in charge of Parma when Mutu, scorer of 27 goals in 60 internationals, landed there after a difficult time at Inter Milan followed by a loan spell at Verona but he flourished under the Parma coach — who persuaded the board to outlay four million euros for him — scoring 21 times and getting Parma into the UEFA Cup.

However, while Parma have slid ever further down the table and face potential relegation this season his goalscoring exploits enticed bigspending Chelsea to pay 22.4 million euros for him.

Thereafter he descended into the hell of cocaine and problems with his marriage. As he was caught cavorting with a pornigraphic film star from Romania, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho

did not take to him and relegated the man from the small Romanian village of Calinesti, who made his professional debut in 1996-97 at the age of 18.

Juventus took the gamble to take him on and then totally out of his powers he saw ‘The Old Lady’ of Italian football relegated to Serie B over the match-fixing scandal. They perhaps did him the greatest favour by selling him on to Fiorentina seven months later where he hooked up with Prandelli again and he has never looked back since.

“For me Prandelli is a brother, a father figure and a friend at the same time,” commented Mutu, who was named foreign player of Serie A in 2007 and is known as ‘The Phenomenon’ by the Fiorentina fans.

For others the bad years are forgotten. “Yes what were they?” says Romanian coach Victor Piturca. “Now he has familial stability, maturity and experience,” added Piturca, who was referring to Mutu’s second marriage which saw him have a third child - two from the first marriage.

For Mircea Sandu, President of the Romanian Football Federation, Mutu is simply a player out

of this world. “He (Mutu) is for me the best striker in the world, capable of making a difference, in terms of upping the pace of a match, a dribble or a shot which is stopped.”