Freddy Adu was once the hope that US Soccer had been looking for as he was making a reputation as ‘The Next Pele‘ at a young age.
But nearly 10 years on from those early claims as a 14-year-old, he sits in a position in his career where he can perhaps for the first time reflect on what has happened.
To many, he is seen as a massive flop. From the start of his professional career, there were questions asking ‘is it too soon?’. From there, he soon made the big step into Europe with Portuguese club Benfica, but now he’s being loaned out by MLS side Philadelphia Union, plying his trade in Brazil with Bahia.
Adu has spoken out about his own interpretation of his career so far to BBC’s Football Focus:
“When you’re 14 and being described as ‘The New Pele’, automatically everybody’s going to look at you and say, ‘Ok, he’s the new Pele, we expect him to go out on the field and dominate games’ and when you don’t do that, people look at you as a failure. It was a little bit unfair.”
It seems that the pressure is something Adu really believes was a heavy weight on his early development as a soccer player. But, he doesn’t appear to be letting it distract him from the present.
“There’s a good and bad to everything. That was just one of those things.”
The move to Benfica was for many the step to greatness as he played for one of Europe’s more competitive clubs, but it never worked out as Adu ended up spending the majority of his time on loan at fairly poor clubs within the likes of Greece and Turkey.
“There was a lot of big clubs I could’ve joined. But with the help of my family, my agent and my advisers we decided on Benfica. We felt it was the best place to develop. It didn’t quite work out that way. I was 18, I was a little immature, but now I’m 23, I’ve seen a lot of how this sport works in Europe and really the rest of the world.”
It seems Adu feels he has been harshly criticized, but perhaps that’s expected given the early hype. Admittedly, that probably makes it a little unfair on him.
“When I was at Benfica I used to smile a lot, people looked at that as me not being serious. It’s just my personality.”
23 is still a very young age for a soccer player, and that must be stressed. There are various examples at top clubs of players only just beginning to make their mark at this age. Adu, however, really needs to show some form now and focus on getting back in the US National Team if he really wants to ever progress back up the footballing ladder.
He’s only 23, yet people think he’s underachieved even though he’s really just beginning.