Thursday, October 6, 2011

Freddy Adu - the great failure


I’m sure some of the people reading this will remember him. Freddy Adu, the great hope of American Football (not Soccer, FOOTBALL). The player who would one day prove that Americans could boast a “soccer” player to match those in Europe. “The next Pele” was being bounced around at pretty much every sentence that had his name in it. The media, the clubs, the fans and pretty much everyone involved in Football agreed that this young boy, originally from Ghana, was going to be the next big thing. So much was expected by one so young and he failed to deliver.

Whenever young talent comes along, the media always seems hype up them by calling them “the next (insert great footballer here)” and more often than not, the expectations fail. So when these young players flatter to deceive, before you know it, their names are forgotten.  Such weight on young shoulders means that 9 times out of 10, the player either vanishes out of the game completely or he turns into just another average footballer. Adu is the greatest example of this.

At the age of 14, in 2004, Adu signed a professional contract with D.C.United despite clubs all over Europe being interested in him including Inter Milan, Manchester United, Lazio and Chelsea, to name a few. The signs were there for all to see, the boy had talent and he had the physique to match as well. By 13, he was already standing tall at 5 ft 8 (which raised questions about his real age), had blistering pace and had skills that made most people envy this kid. The big question on everyone’s mind was whether or not he could make the cut in Europe, in the top leagues with the big boys, and meet the expectations that the whole world had for him. If he could, then we’d be looking at the greatest sports player ever (that’s what was written time and time again).

He made his debut in April 2004, at the age of 14, with the first team. Before he had even kicked a ball, the boy was the highest earning player in the entire league. To even think of such a thing happening in Europe would be considered either illegal or child labor (while making money though). Breaking all sorts of records, the boy in a man’s body had broken to the “big stage” in the US. But that was about as good as it got for Adu, because with world’s eyes on him, and the pressure that comes with that, it went downhill from there.

At the age of 16, he joined Real Salt Lake in the MLS, and even went on trial at Manchester United during that same year, though no move materialized. His time with Real Salt Lake didn’t last long and his big break to Europe had arrived. This was when the World of Football was expecting the boy to turn into a man (he was still only 18), and he moved to Benfica in Portugal in July 2007. Then a series of moves occurred; a year and 11 appearances later, having struggled to make any sort of impact, he was loaned out to AS Monaco in France in 2008. A year and 9 ineffective appearances later, once again, he was loaned out to Belenenses in Portugal (for the 2009-2010). 3 appearances and 3 months later, his loan was cut short as he failed to make an impact. In January 2010, he moved on loan (again) to Greece and with Aris. One year and 9 appearances later, failing again, he was loaned out earlier this year to the Turkish second division and joined Caykur Rizespor – his fourth loan move while still being a Benfica player. Struggling to make any sort of impact all over Europe and through the various leagues, he returned back home to the US and joined Philadelphia Union in August. The great hope has failed.

Why did this happen? Some say it’s because he matured too young. Meaning that while other youngsters were learning about tactics, positioning and so on at the age of 15, Adu was already fighting for his first team place with D.C United. There was no learning curve for him. He was thrown into the deep end and he couldn’t swim through it. It’s a tough price that young players have to pay when so much is made about young raw talent, because being young means that the players, most of the time, believe their own publicity. They fall for the myths that the media create about them. And who can blame them? Being a teenager in the limelight, you would expect nothing less. Adu is not the first young player fall under the pressure of the immense expectations put upon him. Pablo Aimar (the next Maradona), Bruno Cheyrou (the next Zidane), Anthony Le Tallec (the next Platini) and many more all failed to realize their potential. It’s a shame, because as some great coaches like Van Gaal, Ferguson, Guardiola and Wenger will testify, if you give the youngsters time and the right education, they can and will blossom. Adu was given neither of those and he paid the price for it.

6 comments:

  1. Great Post! Such a shame for Adu, although in a sense he oppened the way and showed the world that US soccer had potential.... Look at them today, they have a great team, and if things keep on going this way, the US is going to be a real force to be taken seriously, Bradley is doing a great job...

    Oh yeah and one more thing... Bruno Cheyrou was never touted as the next Zidane, or if so, only by complete idiots.... Mainly because they are from the same football generation.... While ZZ was finishing his career at Real Madrid in 2006, he was 33 and our old friend Cheyrou was 28!!!!! Guess he won't have time to be the next anything at 28....

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  2. Thanks for the comment! Actually he was touted as the next Zidane, by none other than his manager that bought him to Liverpool - Gerrard Houllier in 2002 (back when he was 24).

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  3. That's just a little mean-spirited in places and also a little premature - Adu was recalled to the US squad recently and played well during the Gold Cup. He's still only 22. Of course he was terribly overhyped and there was no chance he was ever going to be a giant of the game, but he can still have a tidy career. Also is 5'8" considered large in professional football?? He's tiny!

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  4. I am amazed at people who have so little direct contact with USA youth soccer think they are such experts. #1: three different birthdates appeared for Freddy in media near the time when he first became known as a young player. How could his own family and he list inconsistent birthdates to journalists? I know someone who went to the first ODP national camp that Freddy attended. Freddy stated to some kids verbally he was much older than has now been published. Freddy has grown none since "he was 14." It has become common for foreign immigrants to the USA with no birth certificate to claim to be much younger than they appear to be. They push talented U.S.-born athletes out of elite training nationally, then flame out as teenagers. Freddy was talented. At DC United, Freddy was very poorly utilized, treated like an adult player that needed to defend hard-nosed; and his older teammates were jealous and froze him out; and his coach did not correct this. He did well in U17 National team because the service was at an acceptable level to utilize his strengths. Freddy is good. If Messi had been treated like Adu, he would be much less effective today; surely not the star he is. They are close in size. Adu IS over-aged, but still good. And well-utilized, he would make a serious impact in a quality team with excellent tactics. He will never be able to impact the game without quality service that utilizes his gifts.

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  6. To be rejected by someone doesn't mean you should also reject yourself or that you should think of yourself as a lesser person. It doesn't mean that nobody will ever love you anymore. Remember that only ONE person has rejected you at the moment, and it only hurt so much because to you, that person's opinion symbolized the opinion of the whole world, of God.

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