Adriano revels in new found joy

RIO DE JANEIRO - Former Inter Milan striker Adriano completed a remarkable comeback after almost quitting football nine months ago when he celebrated Flamengo's Brazilian championship title victory with a 2-1 win over Gremio on Sunday.

The Brazil striker, who was Flamengo's top scorer with 19 goals, almost quit after becoming disillusioned with the game and life in Italy.

"I can hardly believe it... I'm remembering all I went through, I don't even have strength left to celebrate," said Adriano, fighting back the tears as he spoke to reporters on the pitch at the Maracana where a crowd of 80,000 watched the match.

"Really, this is a dream, to be a champion again and, above all, to be happy."

Once one of the most feared strikers in the world, Adriano was released by Inter Milan after he lost his passion for football but, after joining Flamengo, he returned to his best and regained his place in the Brazil squad during the World Cup qualifiers.

Although he said being close to his family was fundamental in recovering his joy for the game, he did not rule out a return to Europe, even if he would like to stay long enough at Flamengo to play for them in next year's Libertadores Cup.

"I've had a lot of proposals, I'm not going to lie to anyone about that," he said.

"But, certainly, what's important to me today and was always in first place is my happiness. Everything I do from here on will be well thought through," he said.

The end of Flamengo's 17-year wait for the Brazilian title sparked a huge street party including fireworks in Rio by the country's most numerous supporters, estimated at 35 million.

Fans who failed to get into the Maracana were able to watch the match on giant screens and roads were closed off for the celebrations.

"When (other teams) realised Flamengo was in the fight it was already too late," said Andrade who was took over as coach in July after Cuca quit.

"Flamengo went top in the penultimate round (of matches) and then we had only one more game, we won and now the rest are left with regrets."