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The nine stages of Freddy Adu’s career: From wonderkid to wanderer

Fast reads

Freddy Adu hit the headlines worldwide on January 16, 2004 when DC United selected him first in the MLS Super Draft. He was 14 years old.

The offensive midfielder, born in Ghana, moved to the United States in 1997 and quickly became the great hope of American football.

Comparisons with Pele soon followed, but Adu could not live up to the immeasurable hype and played for 12 clubs in eight different countries. Here are the ups and downs of a nomadic career.

Tighten inter

Even before signing for DC United, Adu and his family had rejected Inter's approach after shining at youth tournaments in Italy at the age of just 12.

"We've never done that before – Freddy is the first American football player we've ever seen as a professional in European football," Piero Ausilio, general secretary for Inter's youth sector told The Washington Post.

"He's just a great, talented player with great physical tools and a wonderful technical attitude."

No. 1 in 2004 MLS Super Draft

In 2004, Adu was also the youngest American to ever sign a major league professional team sport contract and the highest paid player in the MLS when he joined DC United as the number one in the MLS Super Draft.

He was only 14 years old.

Record breaker

In April 2004, Adu was the youngest player to ever appear in professional sports when he got off the bench against the San Jose earthquake.

Later that month, he lost to MetroStars and became the youngest goal scorer in MLS history.

At the end of his first season, Adu had played 30 games when DC United won the MLS Cup, scored five goals and provided three assists.

The following season, however, he began to publicly express his frustration with the lack of appearances, which cost him a place in the US squad for the 2006 World Cup.

He said, "I always have to make the best decision for myself first, and you know, I'm investigating things, so we'll see what happens at the end of this season and we'll see where My family and I are on our way . "

Manchester United trial

In 2006, Adu trained with Manchester United at the age of 16 in a two-week test so Sir Alex Ferguson could judge the player before a possible change when he turned 18.

"Freddy did everything right," said Ferguson. "He is a talented boy. He will return to the US and we will control him. When he is 18 we have to evaluate what we can do next.

"We brought him here to give him an idea of ​​what United is like so he can see the place and see how good he feels with it."

Because of work permit restrictions, Adu could not appear for the Red Devils, but his family tree was visible to everyone.

Earlier this year, he was the youngest US international ever, was selected twice on the MLS All-Star team, and was nominated for 2005 FIFPRO Young Player of the Year.

On road

After several clashes with Peter Nowak, DC United's coach, Adu left the club to move to Real Salt Lake in 2007. With his new team, however, it lasted less than a year.

An impressive performance at the U20 World Cup, where he led the United States and was the only player at three U20 World Cups, resulted in a transfer of $ 2 million to Benfica.

Loan ranger

The beginning of his Benfica career could hardly have been more turbulent when the Portuguese giants burned three managers in his first six months.

After initially playing under the first two coaches, he fell out of favor and only played 21 games for the club.

Loans to Monaco, Belenenses, Aris Thessaloniki and Caykur Rizespor followed quickly, but it is significant that all four spells ended prematurely.

The move to Rizespor brought Adu at least a recall to the US national team. Bob Bradley was impressed by the player's determination to move to the Turkish second division to play first team football.

After not being used during most of the 2011 Gold Cup, Adu surprisingly appeared as a substitute in the semi-finals and finals. He impressed both, but could not prevent the USA losing 4-2 to Mexico in the latter.

Return home

A return to the MLS followed in 2011 with the Philadelphia Union, united with Nowak's hard love, and Adu firmly believed that his experience in Europe was positive.

Ten years after his first headline, it was easy to forget that he was only 22 years old.

"When I was 25, I wanted to play in England or Spain – and not just play, but be a regular starter for my team," he told ESPN. "I'm 22 this year. I'll see myself in one of these leagues in three years.

"A lot of people may not know that, but that was my goal all along. I wanted to be an established regular for a team like Portugal or France before, so I decided to go to Portugal instead of going straight to England or from here Spain to drive. "

A trialist

Adu's career then followed a familiar path. He could not reach the expected standard at the Union, Nowak was finally fired and the new boss John Hackworth was less than impressed by the player.

“Since I haven't reached the level that is expected from someone who makes money for certain players in Philly, and the fact that the young people on this team looked up at me, I may not have been good enough in (Hackworth's) eyes for these young people on the team, ”said Adu to Goal.

"When I look back, he was right. I can't even be mad at Hackworth for driving me out of Philly. At the end of the day, you have to take some responsibility for yourself.

"You have to put yourself in the best position to be successful in the field or out of the field, and at that point I wasn't particularly successful in the field or out of the field."

After a catastrophic change to the Brazilian team Bahia, Adu once again played under three different coaches in one season, which led to his later release in 2013.

Eight years after training at Manchester United, he was on trial in Blackpool, Stabaek and AZ Alkmaar and was unable to make a deal.

The hiker

Adu finally found a new club by signing with the Serbian club FK Jagodina, which however only lasted six months. Likewise, a stay at Kuopion Palloseura in Finland lasted every three months.

In 2015 Adu returned to the US for the second time and signed for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the NASL. After all, he had something similar to stability, stayed in the club for 18 months, but didn't make a big impression.

Further court hearings at Portland Timbers and the Polish club Sandecja Nowy Sacz – against the will of coach Radoslaw Mroczkowski, who described the opportunity as a "joke" – failed due to permanent contracts.

At the age of 31 Adu is without a club and dreams of establishing himself in a tattered European club.

Adu spoke to the Washington Post in October 2018 while visiting RFK Stadium, where he wrote history for DC United, and said: I can't believe it. It's just flying, man, it's flying. I was 14-15 when I came here. I'm 28 now.

"It's just weird. It was quick. Now I understand (when he signed it) what people were like." Don't take it for granted, it will pass quickly. I want to: "Is it going quickly? I'm only 15 years old. I have a long time."

"And then you blink and wake up and it's like" Oh man ". It goes quickly. You have to make the best of it if you can."

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