Sad story of Freddy Adu of ‘next Pele’ aged 14 and training at Man Utd in 15 different clubs and Swedish third tier

FORMER prodigy Freddy Adu is now 32, without a club, watching the latest hits in a career full of “what could have been”.

The original golden child, the American exploded onto the stage when he was just 14 when he was signed by the MLS giants DC United.

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Freddy Adu was the original prodigy nicknamed the “American Pelé”Credit: Getty

Then, at the same age, he became the youngest goalscorer in American professional football with a goal against the New Jersey MetroStars, who would later become the New York Red Bulls.

This prompted Nike to secure a $ 1million (£ 730,000) sponsorship deal with Adu, while ESPN said he was a better sporting prospect than Lebron James.

Even Brazilian legend Pelé compared the prodigy to Mozart for showing such incredible ability at such a young age.

However, Adu’s career quickly turned into a disappointment – the pressure of being America’s great hope too much and expectations becoming a burden.

After a failed Man Utd try, stays in Portugal with Benfica and Monte Carlo with Monaco, Adu found himself in his homeland trying to pick up the pieces of a life that should have been.

Today he is club-less after playing for the Swedish third division team Osterlen FF.

TEEN KICK

The hype can be a dangerous thing for any young person who plays the game, and Adu’s story is far too much, far too young a caveat.

In 2004, he became the youngest athlete to sign a professional contract with a sports club when DC United offered him a contract.

In three months, he made his debut to become the youngest star in MLS.

At 14, Adu became the youngest athlete to sign a professional sports contract

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At 14, Adu became the youngest athlete to sign a professional sports contractCredit: AFP – Getty
Adu made his MLS debut at 14 and scored his first goal two weeks later to become the youngest goalscorer in history

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Adu made his MLS debut at 14 and scored his first goal two weeks later to become the youngest goalscorer in historyCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
America went wild for Pelé and he appeared in a commercial for a soft drink company with the Brazil legend

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America went wild for Pelé and he appeared in a commercial for a soft drink company with the Brazil legend

Two weeks later, he scored his first goal – a tap-in in a 3-2 loss to MetroStars.

America was unleashed for their new son, who arrived on their shores from Ghana at the age of eight in 1997.

He appeared in commercials for soft drink giants Sierra Mist, alongside three-time World Cup winner Pele, who was mightily impressed.

“Mozart started at the age of five,” said Pelé.

“If you are good you are good. God gave Freddy the gift of playing football.”

SIR ALEX TAKEN A LOOK

In 2004, at the age of 16, Adu landed a tryout with Premier League giants Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson was to be a fan of the Football Manager video game series, which predicted that Freddy would become a global superstar in the years to come. Fans of the game, in fact, always fondly refer to him as the greatest prodigy you can sign.

But the reality was very different. Although he impressed, work permit issues hampered any possible deal with United.

“Freddy did well. He’s a talented boy, ”Fergie said at the time.

“He will return to the United States and we will watch him. When he turns 18, we will have to assess what we can do next.”

In iconic Football Manager video game, Adu would become one of the world's greatest

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In iconic Football Manager video game, Adu would become one of the world’s greatest
In 2004, Adu had a failed trial at Man Utd

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In 2004, Adu had a failed trial at Man UtdCredit: Getty

WHERE HAS HE HAPPENED?

But in 2006, DC United coaches began to lose confidence in him.

In terms of goals and assists, Adu’s numbers just weren’t good enough.

Distractions off the field and the pressure of having to succeed affected his form.

“My family was really poor,” Adu said BBC Sport back in 2012.

“My mom used to work two or three jobs to take care of my brother and I. So if Nike comes to you and tells you that he wants to give you a million dollar contract and MLS wants to make you the highest paid player at 14, you can’t say no.

“I said yes to everything I was asked and ended up making a lot of appearances, a lot of promotion, a lot of interviews and it took the football out of me on the pitch. saw me more as a marketing tool. “

Due to his lack of development, Adu was released to Real Salt Lake in 2007, where everything started to fall apart.

As Adu got older his development seemed to slow down

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As Adu got older his development seemed to slow downCredit: AFP
Adu in action against Chelsea in a preseason friendly for DC United in 2005

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Adu in action against Chelsea in a preseason friendly for DC United in 2005Credit: Reuters

A TRAVELER

Surprisingly, Adu has played for 15 different teams in his life.

It looked like things were on the right track when he signed for Benfica after his stint at Real Salt Lake, but he only managed to play 17 games in four years.

He was loaned out to clubs like Monaco, Belenenses, Aris Thessaloniki and Caykur Rizespor, but failed to set the world on fire.

Adu then returned to MLS with the Philadelphia Union in 2011, where he enjoyed a decent fate before collapsing in Bahia, Brazil, Serbian side Jagodina and even a Finnish side, KuPS.

There was also a failed try with Blackpool in 2015, so he returned to the United States to play in the USL Semi-Pro Championship for Tampa Bay Rowdies and later Las Vegas Lights.

Even then, Adu was still getting commercial work – strangely from Hoover.

He shared a sponsored tweet of a photo of himself vacuuming his home in a pair of joggers.

Yet in 2019, Adu maintained his desire in an ESPN interview that he was still determined to achieve.

“I’m still very young. I’m not ready to give up,” he explained.

“Things didn’t go the way I would have liked, obviously. But I love the sport too much to say I’m ready to give it up.”

Adu returned to the United States in 2011 with the Philadelphia Union after several failures

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Adu returned to the United States in 2011 with the Philadelphia Union after several failuresCredit: AP: Associated press
Today Adu is club-less after being released by Swedish third division team Osterlen

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Today Adu is club-less after being released by Swedish third division team Osterlen

Last year, the attacking midfielder had a bad luck with Swedish third division team Osterlen.

However, they accused him of lacking the physical fitness and mental toughness to return to his best level and canceled his contract within a month.

Maybe it was Adu a lot for nothing.

Freddy Adu shows he’s still a world-class talent as he trains on a training ground


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Richard V. Johnson

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