Leicester’s Ian Walker never stood a chance. The shot, all bludgeoned power and fizzing swerve, streaked past his stretching fingers and into the bottom corner.
Blackburn’s Brad Friedel was the next victim, left floundering as the ball was ushered around him and rolled into the empty net.
By the time Adrian Mutu scored twice in a September 2003 win over Tottenham, making it four goals in his first three Chelsea games, it seemed the Premier League had a new superstar.
“He has the predatory skills to rival Ruud van Nistelrooy, with something of the finesse of Thierry Henry,” reported the Guardian.
“I can’t believe that was 17 years ago,” Romanian Mutu told BBC Sport.
“In my first year at Chelsea I worked with Claudio Ranieri, a great coach, who wanted me in the squad. Without those personal problems, things would have been different…”
On 12 July 2004, less than a year after that explosive start and a little over a month since Jose Mourinho had arrived to replace Ranieri, Mutu found himself subject to a doping test.
Nothing unusual for a professional footballer, except this was not carried out by anti-doping authorities, but by Chelsea.
The club had grown suspicious after a dip in his form on the pitch and increasingly unreliable behaviour off it.
It came back negative. But another, carried out by the usual authorities two months later, showed cocaine in Mutu’s system. He was banned for seven months and summarily sacked. Continue reading