They Could Have Been One Of Football’s Greatest: Freddy Adu

Part six of this series looks at a player many football fans of a certain age will remember from their days playing Football Manager. The youngster was a must signing and just like in real life great things were expected. Things didn’t quite turn out as planned though in real life.

For parts one to five please click on the links below. For criteria please see part one.

P1 Robin Friday
P2 Dean Ashton
P3 Kieron Brady
P4 Jason Koumas
P5 Brian Clough

They Could Have Been One Of Football’s Greatest: Freddy Adu

Freddy Adu first came known to those in football circles in the USA when he was named the Most Valuable Player when playing in an under-14 tournament for the U.S. Olympic Development Program against the likes of Juventus and Lazio; he also led in scoring. Adu represented USA in the 2003 FIFA U17 World Championship and the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship. He was getting noticed and receiving a lot of praise, with some describing him as the next Pele and the future of soccer in the United States.

On the back of these tournaments and the many plaudits he was receiving, Adu who was 14 at the time, became the youngest player ever to sign for a major league club when he signed for D.C. United in 2004. D.C. picked him as their number one pick in that years MLS Superdraft. By the time he was 16 he had played 87 games, scoring 11 goals and also had 17 assists to his name. During this time he was also capped by the U.S. national team. On January 22nd 2006, Adu at just 16 years and 234 days became the youngest player to debut for the national team.

His performances for club and country led Brazilian legend Pele to compare Adu to Mozart. He said, “Mozart started when he was five years old, if you are good, you are good. God gave Freddy the gift to play soccer.”

Adu was also receiving contracts from the likes of Nike. At one point when still only a teenager it was reported that Adu was earning $3 million a year, only $500,000 of that was coming from actually playing football. Adu had this to say when looking back at those days “My family was really poor. My mum was working two or three jobs to take care of my brother and me. So if Nike come to you and say they want to give you a million-dollar contract and the MLS wants to make you the highest-paid player at 14, you can’t say no. You just can’t. I said yes to everything that was asked of me and ended up doing a lot of appearances, a lot of promotion, a lot of interviews, and it took away from the football on the field. People saw me more as a marketing tool” (source

In December of 2006 he was traded to Real Salt Lake. It was while he was here that he played in the Fifa U20 World Cup. He had an impressive tournament whilst captaining the United States team, scoring a hat trick against Poland and created the two goals that beat Brazil. It was these performances that made teams in Europe sit up and take notice. In the summer of 2007 he moved to Benfica for $2 million.

The bright future in Europe that was predicted by many, unfortunately never really materialized. He played just 11 games for Benfica and they loaned him out four times during his spell there. Each loan spell just as unsuccessful as the last.

Even though his club career was not going well he was still appearing for the United States national team and performing well. He played in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Helped the U.S qualify for the 2010 World Cup, scoring his first international goal in a qualifier against Guatemala. Due to his unstable club situation at the time, Adu had a spell where he did not play for the United States for two years. He was a surprise inclusion in the national team CONCACAF Gold Cup squad. Adu had a hand in the goal that won the semi final and then although on the losing side in the final he had a hand in both foals in a 4-2 defeat.

In 2013 he moved back to the United States with Philadelphia Union. He spent two years with them before moving on again. He spent time in Brazil, Serbia, and Finland. At the time of writing Adu is playing for Tampa Bay Rowdies, his 13th professional club in just 11 years.

At 26 years old he still has time on his side to turn his career around, but with the way his career has been going in recent years it would be a surprise to see him come back on to the footballing scene in any great way. A talented footballer, yes, but ultimately a talent that looks to have been wasted.

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