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Freddy Adu: The Wonderkid From Africa That Never Was

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Freddy Adu
Freddy Adu

Freddy Adu, the kid once known as the brightest talent in world football – 9 years on, he is playing with Bahia, a relegation threatened Brazilian league team.  Well,that’s almost a tragic story! It’s one of the pressures that youngsters in Africa face where the poverty level is quite high, so when a youngster is seen as such a prodigious talent, pressure from different quarters immediately begins to mount on his young and inexperienced shoulders. The money-hungry blue chip sporting companies, do not make it any easier for the kid. Such is the story of Freddy Adu.

Freddy Adu was once thought of as the brightest talent in world football. He signed his first professional contract and a $1million contract with Nike at the age of 14, making him the youngest athlete in history to sign a professional deal with such a huge brand. He was deemed good enough to make his MLS debut shortly after, making him the youngest player in the history of professional team sports. He scored his first goal, still aged just 14, which made him the youngest goalscorer in MLS history.

With every big club worth mentioning tracking him and a couple of years in MLS under his belt, Adu was under intense pressure to make a big move out of America. He had the opportunity to join the biggest academies in the world, with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Man Utd etc. all interested, but he opted to join Benfica, where he was told he could have first team football immediately.

Aged 17, he made his Benfica debut. After just a handful of poor performances, they wanted rid of him. It was clear he was out of his depth. His development had stalled and he simply wasn’t good enough to play against top level players. He was loaned out four times and each loan reportedly included an option to buy. Nobody bought him.

Earlier this month, after a semi-successful season at Philadelphia Union, he signed for Brazilian club Bahia.

This was the question presented in front of him when he was unveiled by his club. What happened over the course of your career? At 14, you were compared to Pele. You have had nine clubs. Is this finally your chance to show your soccer?

“Yes. The reason why it looks like I played for so many clubs is because, when I was 18 years old, I went to Benfica and Benfica is a very big club. They need to win right away, so I was loaned to different teams. They just wanted me to go out and get games and get better. It’s not all Benfica’s fault. It’s also my fault. I take some of the blame because I was young, I was inexperienced, and I was living in a different country for the first time in my life without my family and friends. It was difficult to adjust. But now, I am a little older and wiser, a better person, a better professional, more mature. This is a great chance for me and I intend to take advantage of it.”

Let this be a lesson to any young footballers who may be reading – develop while you’re young, compete when you’re older.