The story of Championship Manager legend and MLS flop Freddy Adu

In the early noughties, Freddy Adu was known to almost all football fans.

A legend on the PC game 'Championship Manager' and a young US star with the brightest possible future ahead of him.

Adu was offered trials at Inter Milan at the age of 12, was picked first in the MLS Super Draft by DC United at 14 and was having trials at Manchester United aged 16.

But the talent he possessed as a youngster failed to translate into a successful senior career.

So, what exactly happened to Adu and where did he end up in the years that followed his immense rise to stardom in the United States?

“We have never done this before – Freddy is the first American soccer player that we have ever seen with potential as a pro in European soccer,” Piero Ausilio, general secretary of Inter Milan’s youth sector told the Washington Post back in 2002.

“Simply, he’s a great, talented player, with great physical tools and wonderful technical attitude.”

Adu had been offered trials in Italy aged 12 after shining in youth tournaments before he was even a teen.

However, he opted to play for DC United, becoming the MLS' youngest ever player at 14.

A lack of appearances ultimately caused his exit, with Adu ruing a lack of gametime as he missed out on the 2006 World Cup.

He said: “I always have to make the best decision for myself first, and, you know, I’m just looking into things right now, so we’ll see what happens at the end of this season and we’ll see where my family and myself are headed.”

Manchester United were one of many teams to take an interest, with Sir Alex Ferguson inviting Adu over for a two-week trial.

“Freddy has done all right,” Ferguson said.

“He is a talented boy. He’ll go back to the US and we’ll keep a check on him. When he is 18, we will have to assess what we can do next. What we did was to bring him here to give him an idea of what United was like so he could see the place and see how comfortable he was with it.”

Back at DC, the cracks were appearing to show for Adu, who left the club after clashes with coach Peter Nowak.

A short spell at Real Salt Lake and impressive showing at the Under-20s World Cup brought about a move to Portuguese giants Benfica.

But despite spending four years at the Estadio de Luz, he only made 11 appearances at the Lisbon outfit.

Loan spells at Monaco, Belenenses, Aris Thessaloniki and Caykur Rizespor followed before a return to the MLS in 2011 with Philadelphia Union.

35 games brought 7 goals over a two-year period but ultimately Adu was moved on again.

Brazilian side Bahia took a chance on the forward, with Red Devils flop Kleberson moving in the opposite direction.

Adu became a free agent soon after, as he took up the chance the train with Championship club Blackpool for three weeks.

"I'm really not in a rush to get anything done right this second but I need to make the right decision for my career," Adu said in an interview with Tangerines TV.

"I haven't always made the right decisions as far as choices of teams I've gone to in the past. That's why when I heard of this opportunity I wanted to come here check it out, see if it fits, see how it is."

More obscure stints with the likes of Jagodina, KuPS and KuFu-98 followed before another return to America with Tampa Bay Rowdies brought stability in the form of an 18-month spell and 12 appearances.

And Las Vegas Lights also took a chance on the attacker, signing him in 2018. 14 appearances later, it was off to Osterlen FF in Sweden's third tier.

Speaking in 2018, Adu summed up just how his career had panned out.

"I can’t believe it. It just flies, man, it flies. I was 14-15 when I came here. I’m 28 now," he said.

“It’s just weird. It went fast. Now I understand [when he signed], people were like. ‘Don’t take it for granted, it goes by quick. I’m like, ‘Goes by quick? I’m only 15. I’ve got a long time.’

“And then you blink and you wake up, and it’s like, ‘Oh, man.’ It does go by quick. You have to make the best of it when you can.”

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