Much ‘Adu’ about Nothing

Once touted as one of the world’s brightest prospects, Freddy Adu’s career looks destined to be a huge case of the ‘what if’s’ after being shoved from pillar to post around some of Europe’s less glamorous clubs.

Everyone had heard of this kid just over six years ago, his name was synonymous with that stuff they play over in the states called ‘soccer’, whatever that is, but he had alerted the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs even earlier than that surprisingly, when as a twelve year old he was spotted tearing some of Italy’s top sides apart whilst on tour with the US Olympic Development Program in an under-14 tournament. This reportedly prompted Inter to bid a six figure sum for the preposterously young Adu which was turned down by the player’s mother outright, something which is akin to, ‘sorry boys he can’t come out to play tonight’.

A decent spell in the US after being picked first in the MLS draft by local side DC United followed and the 14 year old became a regular fixture for the capital’s favourite side playing 30 times in the league in his debut season – for once the often overused phrase that terrible commentators like Clive ‘Could this be like Istanbul’ Tyldesley use whenever given the opportunity ‘it was really men against boys out there tonight’ would for once have actually be quite apt, poor old Clive, he was due one after all.

At a time when most 14 year olds are chasing girls, cars, balls (I remember doing a lot of chasing at this age for some reason) Adu was a fixture in one of the MLS’s best sides, winning the MLS Cup in his first season as a professional footballer – too much too young it would seem.

Two more steady season followed, with Adu in and out of the side a lot more in order to give way to the more established stars in the side such as Argie Christian Gomez. In 2006 though, he was traded for Real Salt Lake City keeper’ Nick Rimando. But when Portuguese giants Benfica came calling for the Ghanaian born Adu, he simply couldn’t resist, and he moved for the tidy sum of $2m as he began to take his first tentative steps into European football.

A decent first season followed, one that brought with it eight goals in twenty games, a rather nifty return for someone who was widely considered to be a squad player, and a terribly young one at that it’s important to remember.

What has followed since this promising foray into unknown territory has been a mark of the player’s career to date thus far, inconsistency and unfulfilled potential. A forgettable loan spell to Monaco under manager Ricardo Gomes came about to try and give the player some more experience but it turned out to be a case of bad timing, as off the pitch boardroom wranglings put paid to any hope Adu may have had of a decent season there, as Monaco endured a mixed campaign finishing 11th only eight point off the drop.

He was loaned out to mid-table outfit Belenenses up until Christmas this year but a mixture of indifferent form and injuries played their part yet again and he now finds himself rather strangely at little known Greek outfit Aris Thessaloniki who are hoping to build on their top six finish last term under new manager Hector Cuper . By all accounts they and Adu are doing pretty well, as he has two goals from four starts and the club currently lie in 5th.

But no one can say this is where they expected Adu to have been six years down the line. It’s easy to forget he’s still only twenty years old and after unfairly and irresponsibly being shoved into the limelight at such a young age it’s not really that surprising he’s failed to live up to his billing, as he’s not been given the time to develop either physically or mentally as he should have been. To have the hopes of the nation thrust upon your young shoulders like that doesn’t sit too well with me as I’m sure it won’t with you either.

The constant chopping and changing of scenery will do nothing to help his game either and the fact that he has played in 2 seasons, for three different teams and most importantly in three different leagues will do nothing to help breed any modicum of either consistency or stability. The predicament the young lad finds himself in is saddening, with clubs seemingly all too willing throughout his career to cash in on his name and image rights when they should be nurturing a precocious talent such as he undoubtedly is.

He’s still raw, and although he failed a trial in February 2006 at Man Utd, Fergie was said to be a big fan and this is the sort of standard he should be aiming for. If any club he had been at had shown enough patience in the pacy winger, come striker, then he certainly wouldn’t be playing in the Greek Super League that’s for sure. He’s also got though a tremendous amount of football despite being one so young, and at just the tender age of 20 years old, he has nearly played over 150 games of football, an astounding achievement it has to be said.

He’s got bags of potential, and under the right stewardship he could be a real handful, not of the all-conquering player of Pele-esque proportions that the US media led us to believe in when he first burst onto the scene, but someone of the calibre of Landon Donovan, a player whose recent spell at Goodison Park proved rather fruitful.

Unless he’s given a settled run in an established side, which he may get in Greece now to be fair, he’s destined to always be the nearly man of US football and just another player consigned to the Football Manager annuls as one they got wrong – budge up Cherno Samba, you’ve got some company.

Written by James McManus