Freddy Adu was the original MLS wonder kid, but his career didn’t quite pan out as hoped after his senior breakthrough at 14.
The hype came before Freddy Adu’s first start, when at 12 it was rumoured Serie A giants Inter wanted him on their books. That the move never happened in many ways sums up Adu’s well-travelled career. Lots of talk, but not much else. From a debut for D.C. United at 14 to playing for Las Vegas Lights in the United Soccer League, Adu has called nine countries home and been on the books of clubs as different as Portuguese heavyweights Benfica, and Brazilian also-rans Bahia. He’s had two clubs in Finland and 17 caps for the United States, but none since 2011. It’s a peripatetic career of what-could-have-been, and a warning of the dangers of getting over-excited about a young talent. There’s no way to know how a 14-year-old will develop, physically, technically or mentally, and the best players in their age group don’t always make the professional ranks. Perhaps MLS was desperate for a home-grown star, or maybe, more than a decade ago, football was treated as a sideshow by the public and the idea of a teenager playing among grown men was just part of the circus. If Adu came along now he’d be better-protected, his fledgling career guided and not over-exposed. But he has enjoyed a career as a professional footballer, seen the world and been paid to do so. It could have been worse. But it could have been so much more.