What do you get when you mix the best left foot in the world, the greatest Japanese player ever and Snoop Dogg’s best mate?
Goals, goals and a couple more goals.
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The year was 2002. The team was Parma. The attack was Adriano, Hidetoshi Nakata and Adrian Mutu.
Here’s the story of how three mavericks combined for a truly memorable season.
A meeting of the maestros
Nakata was the only member of the trio to play for Parma during the previous season, helping I Gialloblu lift the Coppa Italia, thanks mostly to the goals of Marco Di Vaio.
But when Di Vaio was lured to Juventus in the summer both Adriano and Mutu were brought in, from Inter Milan and Verona respectively.
Mutu was coming off the back of two seasons with Verona while Adriano had shown glimpses of his powerful talents during a loan spell at Fiorentina.
Just ask the Milan defender still peeling himself off the floor after an encounter the previous campaign…
After five games Cesare Prandelli, himself in his first season at Parma after guiding Venezia for a year, had only seen his side win once.
But there was reason for cheer.
Adriano scored in each of his first three games and when his form hit the buffers Mutu took over, scoring in back to back fixtures.
Even Nakata, who’d made his name as a creative force rather than a goalscorer, chipped in with a strike against Juventus.
While Parma’s form lurched from the sublime to the ridiculous, one thing that was consistent was goals.
Parma were involved in two of the biggest away wins of the season, 4-0 routs against Torino and Chievo, in which Mutu, Adriano and Nakata all scored.
Prandelli’s side also came out on top in the game of the season against a Brescia team inspired by Roberto Baggio.
Stephen Appiah, who would go on to play for Juventus, put Brescia ahaed only for Matteo Ferrari to equalise a minute later.
Baggio scored in the 27th minute but again Parma hit back immediately, through Mutu.
It was then Parma’s turn to go ahead thanks to a strike from Emiliano Bonazzoli, before a second from Baggio tied the game.
Substitute Alberto Gilardino grabbed the winner for Parma in the 74th minute and meant they came out on top in the highest scoring game of the season.
How did it all end up?
Parma battled their way to fifth in Serie A behind the traditional powerhouses of Juventus, both Milan sides and Lazio.
Only Juventus, Inter and Lazio, who finished first, second and fourth, scored more goals than Parma’s tally of 55.
Mutu finished runner up to Christian Vieri in the race to be top goalscorer, finishing with 17 goals to the Inter striker’s 24, and he was ably backed up by 15 strikes by Adriano.
But the duo’s magnificent goalscoring form came at a cost for Parma…
One and out
Mutu’s form hadn’t gone unnoticed, especially on the King’s Road where Chelsea made the Romanian one of the newest arrivals under Roman Abramovich’s spending spree.
Parma held on to Adriano and Nakata for the first half of the 2003/04 campaign but both were coaxed away from the club in January.
Adriano went back to Inter while Nakata joined Bologna and, like that, one of the most maverick attacks to play in Serie A was dismantled.