Quo Vadis Freddy Adu, American Pele?

It’s funny how video games can influence real life. There are so many stories on how video games have predicted some occurrences. At the same time, some of them predicted a certain professional athlete’s career. But it must be said that these predictions weren’t always accurate.

Every Football Manager lover knows exactly who Freddy Adu is. Back in 2019, he was voted the greatest Football Manager wonderkid of all time.

Those who played the game a decade or so ago know exactly how good he was. The reality was completely different for him. Still, his name comes up in conversations to this day.

Let me guide you through the rise and fall of Freddy Adu, “American Pele.”

Meteoric Rise

Freddy Adu wonderkid USA

At just 14 years old, Adu signed with D.C. United, making headlines as the youngest professional player in Major League Soccer (MLS) history. This early start was propelled by a combination of his undeniable talent and the significant hype surrounding his potential to become “the next Pelé.”

Furthermore, he was constantly compared to Lionel Messi.

The expectations set for him were astronomical, with many considering him to become the best player that was ever developed within the MLS system.

His debut season at DC United indicated just how good he can become:

  • Matches: 30
  • Starts: 14
  • Minutes played: 1,440
  • Goals: 5
  • Assists: 3

His talent was undeniable, with a keen sense of positioning, dribbling skills, and a mature footballing brain that belied his young age. This early success in MLS, coupled with his $1 million contract with Nike, painted Adu as the future face of soccer in the United States.

At the time, he was a minor, and it was his mother who signed the contract in his name.

The Rocky Road

Benfica gem Freddy Adu

The high expectations set for him soon became a double-edged sword. Because of the press and the nicknames he earned, Adu faced an enormous burden. Such expectations can be overwhelming for any athlete, let alone a teenager.

Adu’s move to Real Salt Lake was the start of a series of challenges and transitions within MLS. These moves were partly attempts to find a better fit for his talents and partly due to the complex professional soccer in the United States. Still, this move seemed to push Adu further away from the expectations set for him.

Then it was thought that his moving from the MLS league would do him good, and ultimately he moved to Portugal-based side, Benfica for $2 million. It occurred on 28 July 2007. For Benfica, he played in eleven matches in four seasons, which was nowhere near enough for his further development.

He scored five goals, but only two of them were in the Liga Portugal. Sadly, the series of loans that followed disrupted his career immensely.

He went to the following teams:


  • Matches: 9
  • Goals: 0


  • Matches: 3
  • Goals: 0


  • Matches: 5
  • Goals: 1

Çaykur Rizespor

  • Matches: 11
  • Goals: 3

The only loan spell worth mentioning is his time at Çaykur Rizespor, where he scored three goals in eleven matches. His best match was against Gaziantep BB when he scored a game-winning goal.

Until 2011, he had a solid time with the United States national team:

Years Team Appearances (Goals)
2002–2003 United States U17 15 (16)
2003–2009 United States U20 33 (16)
2008–2012 United States U23 11 (5)
2006–2011 United States 17 (2)

Back to MLS

Is Freddy Adu Still Playing

On August 12th, 2011, Freddy Adu went back to the MLS League. He penned a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Union. In two seasons, he played 35 matches and scored 7 goals. It looked like that the move to MLS was a good move.

Many thought this was the moment for him to pick up where he left off before moving to Benfica. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. At that moment, many fans thought it was strange that this happened.

But according to his own admission in an interview he gave back in 2021, he simply didn’t work hard enough during his spell at the Philadephia Union.

In March 2013, his contract with the Philadelphia Union expired, and this marked the start of his later career, which wasn’t successful, but certainly was interesting.

Brazil, Serbia, Finland…

After leaving MLS once again, the next stage in his career was a Brazilian club, Bahia. Bahia wasn’t a good place for Freddy Adu. He played just four matches, two of them in the Copa Sudamericana, and failed to score.

Cristóvão Borges, Bahia’s head coach at the time, said for the local newspapers:

“He doesn’t play because we know that others are better.”

Then he added a more serious statement.

“He’ll finish his contract and Adu will move on. … He’ll be free to join another club.”

At just 25, his career led him to a Serbian side, FK Jagodina. His time at a Serbian club was arguably the saddest part of his career because he failed to make a single appearance in the Serbian league. He appeared only in one cup match, playing just 45 minutes.

After leaving Serbia, he went to Finland and signed with KuPS in 2015 where played only five matches.

KuPS coach at the time, Marko Rajamaki, stated the following:

“He needs time to get back on track. I think he is a good player who needs some practice and patience.”

Then he discussed his salary:

“I was in doubt, whether Freddy would fit into our budget, but his agent told me, that it was not about money. Freddy just wanted to play football again. He does not earn more than the other players, roughly as much as an ordinary employee in Finland.”

The statement just indicates how hard the time was for once a promising player. In July 2017, he left KuPS.

Return to the US

Why Freddy Adu Failed

The final stage of his career was between 2015 and 2018. In 2015, he signed with Tampa Bay Rowdies. He was just 26 at that time. He didn’t score any goals in the league and had just 12 appearances. He left the club in 2016.

2017 was a harsh year for Adu since he didn’t sign for any club.

Some rumors are will sign for a Polish club Sandecja Nowy Sacz. But those rumors were confirmed by the coach club Radoslaw Mroczkowski. His statement on the topic was considered harsh by many:

“Whoever invited him, let him trial him. What is the point of having such a player? The CEO says that it’s marketing. We may as well have (soccer freestyler) Janusz Chomontek.”

Adu even spoke about this situation on his Twitter account.

Just wanted to let everyone know that I will not be signing with sandecja. I have been in a situation like this before in Monaco and it …

— @FreddyAdu (@FreddyAdu) August 1, 2017

Las Vegas Lights was his next club he signed for in 2018 after taking a break for one season. He played just 14 matches and scored one goal, as well as a couple of assists. Sadly, this wasn’t enough for him to continue his spell at the club.

His last official club was Swedish Third Division side Österlen FF, but he failed to make any appearances. The club decided to release him after just a couple of months.

Even though he hasn’t officially retired, it is not likely he will be signed by any club. He is 34 years old.

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