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Football's forgotten superstar

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Chris Bevan | 17:00 UK time, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Remember Freddy Adu? Of course you do. In 2004, he was the 14-year-old who was seen as the future of the game in the United States and a potential new global star. The subject of gargantuan hype when he made his Major League Soccer bow in April of that year for DC United, Adu still holds records as the youngest player and goalscorer in the MLS's short history and is also the youngest player to appear for the senior US team.

The chances are you caught more than a fleeting glimpse of Adu in those early days. His name was everywhere on the internet, as were highlights of his goalscoring exploits for DC and for the US in Fifa youth tournaments. On the pitch, he was raw but also fast and skilful - off it, he was commercial gold and a $1m sponsorship deal with Nike was among several endorsement deals that swiftly followed.

Five years on, it is an awful lot harder to see him in action, unless you fancy a replay of those YouTube clips. Cruelly dubbed 'Freddy Adieu' by some, Adu has had a frustrating time since moving to Europe two years ago but, as I found out, any shortcomings he might have as a player are not the only reasons why his career has stalled.

adub595.jpgAdu has not had much to celebrate since moving to Portugal in 2007

Adu is now 20, an age where most players are just starting to make a name for themselves. Conversely, his biggest problem is that he has been famous since he was a boy and, whatever your thoughts are on his ability, that reputation - not to mention marketability - has arguably hindered his development more than helped it.

In 2006, all seemed well. Adu made his senior international debut at the age of 16, coming on as a substitute for the US against Canada in January, and, despite rumours of a fall-out with DC coach Peter Nowak over his best position and his lack of application in training, the attacking midfielder played in all 32 of their league matches before featuring in the MLS All-Star game for the best individual performers that season.

By the end of that year, he had a brief spell training with Manchester United before, perhaps surprisingly, joining another MLS franchise, Real Salt Lake City. The following summer, he turned 18, allowing him to make his dream move to Europe and join Portuguese giants Benfica for around £1m. Sadly for Adu, this is where his career began to unravel.

He played just 129 minutes of league football for Benfica in 2007/08, with his only two starts for the club coming in cup games, and was loaned to French side Monaco for 2008/09 - again, he hardly featured, except from off the bench. This summer, he asked for another loan move and almost joined Danish side Odense before moving across Lisbon to Belenenses, a club that are perhaps a bit like Adu - a big name but have had a few lean years.

It was at this point that I tried to track Adu down. I know I'm not the only one interested in his progress, or lack of it - at the last count his Twitter account had more than 135,000 followers - and it was through one of his Tweets that I found out my interview request had been successful.

Not that I managed to speak to him. Instead, I received a fax of two sides of neatly-written A4 paper containing the answers to the questions I had emailed his club. Not ideal, as normally it is difficult to grasp the character of a player without talking to him. However, in Adu's case, two things still shine through - optimism and determination.

He needs those qualities too. Adu's move to Belenenses has brought him more frustration rather than the game-time which he craved. Although this season has seen him make his first league start since moving to Europe, when he faced Nacional on 12 October, he has only made two other substitute appearances and, of late, he has struggled to even make their 18-man match-day squad even though his new club are third-bottom of Liga Sagres with just one win all season.

This, clearly, was not part of the plan. As Adu told me last week, he joined Beleneses "because I needed to be on a team that gave me the best chance of playing consistently and because it gives me the best chance of making the US team for next summer's World Cup. I can make the World Cup team if I play regularly here and well."

aduc595.jpgAdu made his senior US debut against Canada at the age of 16

Therein lies the problem - it's not that Adu is playing badly, simply that he doesn't play often enough. The finals in South Africa are only eight months away and he won't earn a place on the plane by sitting on the bench. So what has gone wrong? American players have struggled to make an impact in Europe before but why is Adu having such a tough time in relatively modest surroundings?

"I'm not sure why," he said. "How any player does depends on your team and the league you are playing on. The Portguese style fits my game because it is about technique and is not too overly physical. But some players thrive under certain coaches and some don't because of the way they are used.

"Every team I go to kind of expects me to be a superstar and dominate but I am very young and still learning. I guess that's what comes of having a big name when you are young."

It's not all bad news. Adu told me he has no problems speaking or understanding Portuguese and most of the time he has his mother, Emelia, to keep him company in Lisbon. Then there is Twitter - his very own online support network, where he is in touch with old US-team-mates like Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley and Stuart Holden, not to mention his thousands of fans.

Adu, who was born in Ghana but moved to the US at the age of eight when Emelia won an immigration lottery, explained: "My mother is still the biggest influence on my career because she knows me best and always gives me the best advice when things are going well and when things are not going well - she always points me in the right direction. And my fans on Twitter are great. They always keep me positive no matter what. Those are true fans and I appreciate them so much."

If only more people had looked out for Adu, he might not be in his current predicament. Could, or should, the MLS have nurtured him better rather than effectively using him as a marketing tool? He certainly brought new levels of interest to the game in the States, but I struggle to see how any of that attention truly benefited Adu's career, other than financially.

It is ironic that, at the same time Adu - the one-time 'saviour' of US Soccer - left the US in 2007, David Beckham arrived on those shores to become the new face of the game in the States. The timing was a coincidence but the current thinking from those promoting the MLS seems to be that there is no point trying to develop your own superstar when you can just ship in a ready-made one.

As for Adu's next move? Well, it is too late to give him what he should have received - tutelage at an academy of one of Europe's biggest clubs where he could have quietly had the schooling his undoubted talents deserved. What he needs now is time on the field, and to perform well when he gets it.

adu595.jpgAdu trained with Manchester United at the end of 2006

That looks unlikely to happen at Benfica, where he is under contract until 2012, but he will have to be careful when speaking to prospective suitors. I'm told that the reason Monaco signed him was that their French-American president Jerome de Bontin spotted a marketing opportunity but the club's manager Ricardo did not want him - and used him accordingly. A move back to the MLS might help but Adu is not ready to give up on his European adventure just yet, and could even end up on these shores.

"I LOVE-E-E the Premier League," Adu told me. "Playing in England is my ultimate goal. My favourite players are Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Didier Drogba and Steven Gerrard. Everything I'm doing now and have been doing is to prepare myself for the Premier League. If it were up to me, I would be playing there now but there are work permit issues."

Regardless of where Adu ends up next, it is surely too early to write him off. His recent displays against players his own age at the 2007 Under-20 World Cup and Beijing Olympics in 2008, where he scored four goals in three games, suggest he still has plenty to offer.

What he needs more than anything is a club where he is appreciated - if there were such a thing as a Twitter FC, it would be ideal.

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  • Comment number 1.

    I know one manager who could get this young man's career back on track: Arsene Wenger!!
    The player clearly has got the potential and just needs someone to guide him and give him back his confidence, and Arsene is fully capable of doing that.

  • Comment number 2.

    Interesting article. As a DC native I remember pretty clearly all the hype surrounding Adu when he first played. I had no interest in MLS at the time (and I have no interest now), but I was intrigued enough to watch a few games. To be honest, Adu had bags of pace and perhaps a fair measure of raw skill, but you always felt he just looked good due to a dearth of talent throughout the league.

    It'd be interesting to see how he gets on in Europe, but too often you see this kind of story. Becoming world famous at that age left him without the experience of having to train hard and struggle for playing time, and I think that gives him a massive disadvantage now.

  • Comment number 3.

    Freddy has expressed his interest in playing for Tottenham, the club he supported as a kid. Personally, I wish he is given the opportunity to play in England, preferably at White Hart Lane.

    On the other hand, Clint Dempsey, another American, has been playing exceptionally well for Fulham.

  • Comment number 4.

    This sadly sounds like the beginning of the story of a fellow Ghanaian: Nii Lamptey. Let's hope it doesn't continue down that tragic path.

    I am sure that if the right club comes in and gives him a real chance to play football, he will turn his career around. Whether or not he fulfils the near-Messianic 'potential' people were talking about when he was 14 is a different matter, but there's no reason he can't become a very good footballer given the chance. He seems to have the right attitude for it.

  • Comment number 5.

    I should clarify that Lamptey's footballing career suffered as a result of a mix of personal tragedy, unscrupulous agents taking advantage, pressure from hype and no small measure of naivete on the players' own part. Also, Lamptey did show signs of his immense talent at Anderlecht and PSV before hitting the rocks in England, whereas Adu hasn't yet had the chance to shine outside the MLS, where the football isn't really of a high enough quality to see how good an individual may be.

    However, for two teenagers of Ghanaian descent, each heralded as the 'next Pele' at just 15, the parallel stories of great talent wasted are poignant.

  • Comment number 6.

    Perhaps the various coaches who watch him in practice and consistently choose not to field him are right?

    Sometimes it can be difficult to choose a player who has not been playing well during practices over a home grown of same age who clearly performs better.

    In Brazil (I'm Brazilian) these quick, agile players are a dime-a-dozen; most don't make it some do.

  • Comment number 7.

    One thing I can tell you for certain is that although I am generally not a fan of American players in general, I was very impressed with Adu at the U20 World Cup matches I watched in Ottawa, Canada. In the Brazil-USA game, he was the most creative player on the pitch. What really impressed me though, was that he almost played like Rooney, in that he was very(!)physical, never gave up on the ball and just ran at people all day. He created some memorable goals and opportunities.

    Someone mentioned Wenger and they are probably right that if the right club invests in him and trains him properly with an eye on long term success, he truly does have the tools to be a world beater. He just isn't the finished article quite yet.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    On the age/passport bit, Roberto_Mexicano, wasn't there some controversy over Obafemi Martins when he was at Inter for similar reasons?

  • Comment number 10.

    As a United fan I have to agree with the first post Wenger is the man to get him on track if he is to be gotten on track.

  • Comment number 11.

    Does anyone really belive that in the cutthroat world of football, if the kid was any good he wouldn't have been snapped up. No, it just means the kid aint got it. He may have been a talented, precocious 14-year-old but we've all come across kids like that and how many carry it into adulthood? Very few.

  • Comment number 12.

    1/ True_Knight... Yes. Wenger would be ideal for Adu - no doubt about that. But, while Adu isn't playing for the US, he isn't going to get a UK work permit. He might have been given dispensation a couple of years ago, given his reputation, but his lack of action in Portugal/France since coming to Europe won't help him if he tries to come to the Premier League next.

    4/ Gareth... Definite parallels there. But you're right, Nii Lampety did at least show some form after coming to Europe. I remember all the hype about him, and when he came to Aston Villa and Coventry, he hardly got a sniff (although he did score an absolute cracker in a League Cup tie for Villa, which I've never been able to track down on YouTube). After that, it was all downhill. Let's hope Freddy fares better.

    For those of you who haven't heard of Lampety, there's an excellent piece about him here:

  • Comment number 13.

    * I mean Nii Lamptey, sorry.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think as much as a move to Arsenal could do him some good, he may just be too old. What he should do is consider a step down in the clubs he's approaching. Instead of going for top-flight teams (Benfica, Monaco) he could perhaps attempt a loan move to a 2nd division team. This has done wonders for many players in the Premiership, who move down to the Championship or League one, look at Sebastian Larsson; ok he's no Cristiano, but he is starting for Sweden, who's international team includes the likes of Ibrahimovic and could be on a parr with the US. Sure he's not the next "wonder-kid" of football, but if he's so determined to make it, he should consider a step down in order to move forward in his career, if only for the purpose of getting games.

  • Comment number 15.

    9) yes i heard some rumours about martins and his age, one of the funniest being he was in the same youth age group team as celestine babayaro (now aged 31) whilst martins claims to now be 25, you do the maths

  • Comment number 16.

    Roberto_Mexicano, the MLS is not as bad as your making out, I've seen Becks struggle in some games and he still gets a game for England. Conference, no way, maybe League One is a better comparison. The English leagues are not as great as all you English think. People say there are only 2 teams in Scotland, well I have not see anyone but United or Chelsea win the league in a long time and this years going the same way. Look at the Prem's teams in Europe this year, LIverpool struggling, Everton getting pumped rotten. The Prem is not all that.

  • Comment number 17.

    Freddy Adu made the wrong decision in 2006. Had he played for Ghana's national team he would have been much more marketable as Essien is today. In America , he was just the next teen Idol ....and hopefully soccer's Michael Jordan who could single-handedly save US International soccer and build the MLS's popularity. In comes Altidore and co and now Freddy is forgotten. Imagine if Freddy Adu was on Ghana's roster alongside Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari.......he could have been marketed across an entire African continent and in Europe as well. He would have been much more visible and that would have led to him being picked up by a better club in Europe.

    Hindsight is golden .

  • Comment number 18.

    I agree 100% with True_Knight. Looks like a salvage project for Wenger!

  • Comment number 19.

    OK, this might sound a bit bonkers (and over-optimistic!) but I'd like to see him at Swansea City. It seems that even if he were to accept such a move it would be unlikely due to work permit issues. However, I think the Championship would be a perfect training ground for a player with a professed desire to play Premiership football. Last season Swansea were widely regarded as playing some of the most attractive, attacking football in the league. Although this season we seem to be building from a solid defense, the derby game showed the kind of attacking football we are capable of - I think a player such as Adu would have an excellent opportunity to fit into such a team. There would certainly be a place for Adu on the bench and then in our starting eleven if he made the grade. He wouldn't be on Superstar wages and he would get knocked about plenty on the pitch but I reckon he'd get more of a chance and who knows, maybe he'd find himself playing with the Swans in the Prem!

  • Comment number 20.

    If he ends up qualifying for a Portuguese passport he can come to England with no visa issues. But if Manchester United already passed up on him, would any big team want him? Perhaps someone like Newcastle would take him, and if he performed well there Chelsea could tap him up.

  • Comment number 21.

    Seems to me there is an underyling issue with Freddy, otherwise I am sure one if not all the managers he has passed through would have taken time out to groom him if indeed he has the skills. I must confess I really have not seen any of his games, but remember all the hype in the media a few years ago.

    Nii Odartey Lamptey, back in the 90's used to be a delight to watch, such a talent.

  • Comment number 22.

    Well it good to write for him..but can we move a bit further...ask Arsene Wenger to help out before this shinning star lights are deemed?

    we have seen others go down before their prime...let help him now!

  • Comment number 23.

    Very interesting article - well done for making it a point to write about him. I remember hima couple of years back and thought that finally the US had a player that could get them excited and a player who was being courted by Europe's big clubs. Again, as you rightly point out - he's only 20. Time is on his hands.

    OK - despite the fact that he can't get a UK work permit I've got 3 letters:


    They're a great club, they have a superb striker in Jay Simpson (he needs a partner in crime), they're in London and they're (hopefully) going to the Premiership.


  • Comment number 24.

    I have seen Freddy Adu play many times in person and seems to have some real ability if he were to be given a real run in a side.
    I'm suprised that there has been no mention of the rumours which seem to keep surfacing about his move to Fulham. Roy Hodgson could be an ideal manager to help him achieve all that he has to promise, and he'd fit in well with the American links the club seem to have grown in the past few years (Dempsey, Johnson, McBride, Lewis, Hanehman, and even Hangeland). The fans also seem quite excited about this potential move too - did somebody say Adu Mania?

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm not sure if Freddy could handle the English game - by his own admission, he likes the Portuguese game because it's less physical.

    If he does want to move to England, he ought to try a Championship side - the standard is still higher than MLS and it's a good training ground. But he should only do that if he really wants to learn how to deal with the unsavoury physical aspect of the game.

    The problem is buying out his Benfica contract - that makes him unattractive for other teams to buy. Perhaps if every one of his Twitter fans paid $10, he could buy out his own contract.

    As it is, he remains (along with Shevchenko and many others) a poster child for players who were satisfied with the owner of a football club wanting them and not checking that the coach wanted them too.

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    Hi Benfica fan here.

    We all remember the hype which used to surround Freddy and it was with that enthusiasm that he was received by all Benfica fans when he signed for us, everyone expecting the revelation of the next great player in our footballing history.

    I certainly thought he was going to get a lot of playing time and with Rui Costa still playing for us, what better mentor could you have?

    Unfortunately he came on as a sub for a few Liga games and played mostly in the Portuguese Cup and the Carlsberg Cup. Somehow still managed to be the 5th top goalscorer with 5 goals (2 league and 3 league cup) without having played much.

    Yes things haven't gone well for the last few seasons but I really hope he can do a 'Fábio Coentrão' with us - The young winger was sent on loan and after being with Nacional, Zaragoza and Rio Ave, he has come back a superb player. At Zaragoza he was hardly even selected to travel with the team.

    Now has started numerous games for us, even playing left-back to cover for injuries and has earnt a well deserved call up by Portugal manager Carlos Queiroz for the WC Qualifiers.

    Whenever he is selected by Belenenses for a game I keep a close eye because he is still one of our players (we also have Fellipe Bastos there too), and I really hope he can rise once again.

    Força Adu! :-)

  • Comment number 28.

    If spurs are his boyhood team, then atleast he has something to work for, we need a decent left footed player and youth is on his side, bring him now and train him with top class players unlike in the U.S or lower level Portugal and it shouldnt be that hard to get him a visa, half the premiership requires a visa!!!!

  • Comment number 29.

    Very true about Adu. The age issue still rages on in Ghana especially with his alleged classmates who claim he is well into his twenties.
    1 His first problem was not finding a club that would help develop him into a star that could last.He should have joined a Man U or Arsenals academy where exposure could have been limited.
    2 Fame and over exposure most likely put too much pressure on the "young" lads shoulderas. He should work the old fashion way, get his head down train extra and wait for the slightest opportunity to show everyone what he is capable of doing.
    Good luck to Freddy

  • Comment number 30.

    I completely disagree with Roberto_Mexicano about the level of MLS, having watched a number of games this season i would say the level of the league is on a par with the bottom half of the championship, the level is getting better each year. By the way i am not American, i am just not a football snob like some people who bash MLS, whose knowledge of the game clearly begins and ends with the premiership.

  • Comment number 31.

    Wenger wouldn't be bothered with Adu. His academy lads at Arsenal are equals, if not better players than him. The same can be said for our (United's) youth team. He had a trial with us and wasn't picked up. I would have young Manc Danny Welbeck ahead of him any day, if we feel that both their best positions are upfront. Adu would be better suited to somewhere like FC Twente, or somewhere else in the Netherlands, and use it as a stepping stone to the Premiership.

  • Comment number 32.

    the fact that benfica paid £1 million to sign adu says it all. I he was really that good all the top european clubs would of snapped him up at what a price that amounts to relative pennies given thebudgets at some club. The fact is at 14 he was exceptional for a 14 year old, in a league which is highly inferior to most european leagues, in any european academy at that age he would have merely blended in. If Wenger or Ferguson had really thought he was up to the hype Adu would not be playing in portugal right now! Arsenal and Man Utd have spent far bigger somes on promising eighteen year old, so maybe he just isnt good enough?

  • Comment number 33.

    Sadly for Adu he is totally right when he said it's difficult when everybody expects you to be a superstar, anything good he does will always fall short. I think this is a case of a player being overhyped, sure he has talent but he's simply not the super talent we'd all hoped for.

    Re Wenger - the guy has more scouts than Baden Powell, so if Adu was any good one of them would have spotted it. Sadly for Adu more hype than real talent.

    I have a feeling the beeb could regurgitate this article in a few years and simply change the name from Adu to Nani

  • Comment number 34.

    Does anyone give any credence to the idea that he is not progressing because he is a lot older than he says/has been told, like the Brazilian fella a few years back who was pretending to be 21 to get a bigger reputation?

    The same can be said for our (United's) youth team. He had a trial with us and wasn't picked up.

    Theyt said it was a work-permit issue at the time.

  • Comment number 35.

    The last thing this poor guy needs is to be snapped up by Tottenham. Sure, he needs game time, but also he needs to be appreciated.

    He would do well to go to someone like Fulham, with a manager who could make good use of him, where he'll get games, and where the squad isn't too big to lose him in.

    Would love to see him at United, but i worry he'd not see enough action, though maybe just being in the squad would put him back on the map for the national squad.

    If he went to Liverpool, it would be the end of him.

  • Comment number 36.

    First off anyone who has seen Adu play will know he is incredibly 1 footed, i've seen games where more experienced defenders make him play with his weaker foot and as a result press him into simple mistakes. So to a degree he has been found out a bit.

    I also really do believe that he is older than he says which is a problem with some players from Africa (George Weah's cousin anyone?) which would account for his above avaerage ability for a 'young boy' and his failure to develop as he 'became an adult'

    Although the MLS has improved rapidly in recent years 5 years ago it certainly was not the standard that it is today, I believe this added to his reputation for being a wonderkid.

  • Comment number 37.

    Unfortunately for Mr Adu, he would have developed otherwise had his mother agreed the fee (approx. $US 500,000) proposed by AC Milan when he was 14.

    Already at 17, during the FIFA U20 held here in Montreal (I attended two USA matches), Adu was, in my opinion, very average when compared to other teamates such as Bradley and Altidor. (as a side note, Pato was also very average with the Brazilian squad).

    Pity for Adu, since 1) he did not develop properly and 2) his passage in the MLS did not have the expected impact.

  • Comment number 38.

    I think Freddy should go off on loan at Sheffield Wednesday. I got him on Football Manager 09 and he was ace...

  • Comment number 39.

    Its standard procedure in African football to lie about youngsters ages - thats why so many of them get exposed as they get older, they are no longer bigger and stronger than their peers.

  • Comment number 40.

    It's ironic. I believe he received offers from giant clubs like Inter Milan when he was really young but he and his mom decided on DC United because he thought it would be less pressure. Obviously the atmosphere at Inter would've been more cut-throat but there he would've been just one more young teen trying to make an impact instead of a 16 year old trying to carry a fledgling league on his back.

    I think his development was held back in key years, not so much by MLS but by the particular managers in question. Peter Nowak (at DCU) is a very rigid, discipline oriented manager, ironic since he was a great playmaker in his playing days. John Ellinger (at Salt Lake) is just very uninspiring and his teams typically play overly direct and not especially technical soccer. Further adding to the misfit is that both Ellinger (U17) and Nowak (U23) have also been in charge of US youth national teams that Adu has been a part of. Sadly senior team US boss Bob Bradley is the same way, at least at the international level.

    I'm not quite sure why he's struggled to make an impact in Europe, especially in a technical league like Portugal. But at the same time, he is only 20 so it's not like his career is over yet.

  • Comment number 41.

    any chance of you putting up a full transcript of the questions and answers?

  • Comment number 42.

    I know the problem of players lying about their age is huge, but I can't imagine it applies to Adu. If he moved to the US aged 8 and went through the American school system accordingly, there would be clear evidence if he actually was older than he claims - and I can't imagine his mother would have been able to pass him off as significantly younger (a 12/13 year old posing as an 8 year old?) when they moved.

  • Comment number 43.

    If Freddie had played with his age group and not lied about his age he would have grown in the game and not have the poblems he is having now. Freddie was older then 14 years old when he played with those kids. He dribbled from one end to the other and could do whatever he wnated with the ball; the kids where no match cuz he was stronger and more matured for that age group. When he was put to play among his euqals we see that he is not the genius he was portrayed to be. Like it or not many Africans look younger than their ages. I am a Liberian and know this for a fact. It is said that football players have their football age and their real age. If he had played with his age group and not the 13 yr olds that he made to loook like nothing on the field we would have known the real Freddie and know what he is capable of doing.

  • Comment number 44.

    I think somebody else has already said this but, surely we should defer to the coaches who watch him week in week out and don't consider him good enough to play even at lowly Belenenses.

    The guy obviously has either an attitude problem or, more likely a talent problem.

  • Comment number 45.

    post #1 has it right - wenger could do wonders for him. if it's a work permit issue why not bring him to the club then ship him out on loan to their belgian feeder club like they eboue and diaby a few years ago.
    chelsea did this with alex at psv while they waited for him to get a work permit to play in england too, it's not like it's impossible

    bottom line, if a powerful club like arsenal or man utd really wanted to nurture the player they'd find a way around work permit issues. they just don't see enough in the player to make the trouble of getting around work permit issues worth the potential pay off.

  • Comment number 46.

    Very insightful article, you could liken Freddy Adu's career to that of Jimmy Kranky both young superstars with the world at their feet only to fade into the background - have you ever had the pleasure of an encounter with Jimmy Kranky?

  • Comment number 47.

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  • Comment number 48.

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  • Comment number 49.

    The tale of Adu so far is a sad tale. I am a DC United Fan and I'm also from West African. Unlike the Liberian brother (sammysosa), I do not believe the story about Adu lying about his age b/c his story does not fit the profile. The kid came to America at age 8 on a lottery visa. There was no motivation to change his age. Per memory, US immigration laws defines a 'child' as anyone under 18. If he was really 12, what's the benefit? Also, if there was a motivation to age cheat for footballing reasons why did his mom decline the opportunity for him to move to Italy when he was allegedly 18/19 as opposed to 14/15? She held him back b/c he was a kid: hindsight being 20/20 it was the wrong decision b/c it stunted his development. Yes, he is terribly one footed but so was Messi for a while before he recently (just last season) developed his right foot. Robben is also one legged. With playing time he will be able to develop other aspects of his game. Personally, I feel he's putting too much pressure on himself trying to live up to the hype. Adu has no biz dreaming of a world cup spot if not for his last name. He should focus on breaking into the squad of one of the worst teams in Portugal. His best position is supporting striker in a 442 (not attacking midfield) b/c he does not have the frame to play anywhere in central midfield (compared to Joe Cole, he's soft). He can also play as a wide forward in a 433 (just like Messi does). Finally, he needs a manager who will put an arm around his shoulder and give him a run of games. Either way, Adu should stop dreaming about the WC and focus on his career. He is putting the cart before the horse and that has been pretty much a recurring problem in his career (by him & his advisers).

  • Comment number 50.

    There's no doubting that Adu has plenty of pace and skill, but these abilities alone don't make you a great professional footballer, just a ball-juggling sideshow. I'm sure with a good run in the first-team and good coaching that he'll become a reasonably solid professional for a half-decent side in Europe, but he's never going to reach the level that was expected of him when he was 14.

    I've watched plenty of MLS and seen plenty of promising youngsters play over there (and there's plenty dotted around youth teams all over Europe) that are much more complete players that Adu ever was or probably ever will be. The world media wrongly picked out a player, who looked good on paper, to hail as the first American football/soccer superstar. With plenty of youth players and the slow improvement of youth academies and youth coaching in the States, I'm sure we'll see one or two in the next ten or fifteen years, but at the moment, I can't think of any who might become as good as the likes of Kaka, Ronaldo, Rooney, Messi, etc...

    Little tip, keep your eyes peeled for American Luis Gil who looks like he'll be joining up with Arsenal youth team in the near future. He's got bags of talent and definitely looks a good prospect, who maybe under the guidance of Wenger can play for the Arsenal team. That'd be good to see.


    It's Real Salt Lake, not Real Salt Lake City.

  • Comment number 51.

    That Nii Lampety article in the Guardian nearly made me cry. More must be done to ensure kids have a proper upbringing into the game. Michel Platini's desire to outlaw U18 transfers is ridiculous - what needs to be sorted is the agents who ofetn try and exploit kids who know no better.

  • Comment number 52.

    What managers probably see is a small player who is at his most creative outside the box where he has a bit more space, but will never put in a real shift as a two-way midfielder. The US team can't use him because they play with two holding central midfielders, two attacking wingers, and a classic little/large striking pair up top. Your grandfather's grandfather's 4-4-2.

    I thought he played well at the U-20 WC. Adu basically made Jozy Altidore into a star (Confed. Cup last summer helped too) by assisting most of his goals or with good set up play.

    I think his career has stalled because of his size and determination. I honestly don't think I have ever seen him win a ball in the defensive half. What can you do with a player like that? Championship? They would murder him. However, he is fun to watch and I hope he at least finds stability, if not stardom.

  • Comment number 53.

    I think it's all much Adu about nothing.

    Sorry. Someone had to say it.

  • Comment number 54.

    So many posts say Spurs should give him a chance because he supports them, or Wenger should give him a chance because of his track record with youngsters...


    Surely PL clubs should buy players on merit and not past reputation? Why should this perfectly nice (and for a long nicely rewarded) player get a chance at Arsenal or Spurs over millions of youngsters from across the world?

    Seems to me that a little more effort and a little less tweeting might be the order of the day. Or perhaps its just that every manager he's ever had has been wrong and Adu right...

  • Comment number 55.

    Nice article, and thanks for the link to the Nii Lamptey article. Excellent piece, sad story!

    Response to number 53 Aurakuh.
    What are you talking about, this was a very interesting article. Better than reading about the same old subjects again and again.

    Thanks again Chris.

  • Comment number 56.

    Remember Sonny Pike? Another 'next best thing' who turned out to be pants.

  • Comment number 57.

    I know he is in the right place.Where was Jesus Christ between the ages of 12 and 30? Yet when he came back between 30-33 he evidently made a name for himself!
    What I am saying is that Adu is training,playing doing everything under the radar,but by the time he comes back again ,wow he could be the best player in the world! mark my words. Also he is positive about this experience which is his 'valley' experience.I am sure this experience will help him handle success better .
    Once he goes THROUGH it he will be fine and begin to grab the headlines again.Freddy ,all the best and God Bless!I'll be waiting at the end of the valley for you ,charlie.

  • Comment number 58.

    He probably never got the coaching needed to progress as a teenager as he was already lauded as a star. And he probably never got the best advice on his career moves. Still true talent will always shine through.....

  • Comment number 59.

    I am very sure if this boy had opt to play for Ghana he will still be in very good form, this reminds me of another boy who is making the same silly mistake (MARIO BOLETERI of Inter Milan)he want to play for Italy but they dont want him, Ghana want him but he dosent
    want any bar of Ghana. In the last world cup Adu would have played for Ghana but he wanted to play for U S A likewise Mario want to play for Italy now, my friend, you play for them once that will be it.

  • Comment number 60.

    He's an American product unlike the blood line of that Northern Jersey boy who is not playing for the yellow submarines...

  • Comment number 61.

    Thomazos: Hopes where high for Rossi, even when he left OT because of the rumoured buy back clause. Alas no.

  • Comment number 62.

    As a West Bromwich Albion fan and somewhat of a master of Football Manager over the last year, Adu's stats don't seem to have been affected too much over the 4/5 years he has been around and I consistently sign him for any club I take control of. I know this isn't a massive basis to judge real life, despite rumours Everton use FM as a scouting tool, I would like to know whether you have seen Adu play and whether he could make it work at a Premier League club e.g. if West Brom got promoted. Our problem once promoted is staying there and if he was cheap I'd hope our Chairman/Head coach would consider signing him.

  • Comment number 63.

    This is perhaps the most fair and realistic look at Adu I've seen by a journalist domestic or abroad. It is very refreshing to see a journalist that seems to understand the nuances of the MLS and the American game without butchering details or inherently looking down upon it.

  • Comment number 64.

    Im tired of people saying that Freddy would be further in his career had he chosen to play for Ghana. Thats just rubbish!! Ghana's lineup is way harder to break into than ours (USA) If Fredua cant get into the US midfield where there are no superstars, what makes u think he would break into Ghana's (Essien, Muntari, Steven Appiah, Richard Kingston). He wouldnt play over the likes of Quincy Owusu-Abeyie who is not even a top player.
    National team play has nothing to do with his development or lack of.
    If he was in a Ghana shirt, Fredua would have even less caps than he does now for USA

  • Comment number 65.

    Who knows what Adu could do if he played regularly. But it's odd to hear someone in his position assuming he can or will play in the premier league. It's this sense of over-confidence that probably contributes to teams not wanting him. If I were Adu I would:
    1) Take a sabbath from the media, explaining that it's not because he's stuck-up, but because he needs to let his game speak for itself after so much hype.
    2) Re-emphasize to his coaches and in the media (yes, I know that contradicts #1), that he has decided that he can't control results, but is going to take on a new work-ethic, and that he doesn't expect things as his birthright.
    3) Stop talking about the premier league and get to work where he is. If he wants to play in England, then do it, but in a lower league. If he plays well he'll be noticed.

  • Comment number 66.

    @ 64 richard kingston is a goalkeeper, not a midfielder...


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