Freddy Adu signed his first professional contract on this day in 2004

Freddy Adu (L), a 14-year-old soccer pro

The hype around Freddy Adu was incredible.

The American was 14 years old when he burst onto the scene, being selected by D.C. United with the first overall pick in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft.

Dubbed ‘the next Pele’, Adu was seen as the future of United States football.

He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated was coveted by Nike, who signed him to a multi-year deal worth $1 million shortly after he joined D.C. United.

And he initially lived up to the hype, becoming the youngest scorer in MLS history when he netted against the MetroStars.

Adu was nominated for the FIFPRO Young Player of the Year award in 2005 and a trial with Manchester United followed in 2006.

But Adu’s career soon unravelled and he quickly descended into becoming a journeyman.

MLS - DC United vs Chicago Fire - June 29, 2005

The attacker was traded to Real Salt Lake in December 2006 but he lasted less than a year there, joining Portuguese side Benfica the following July.

Adu was never a regular at Benfica, though. He was sent out on loan four times, having spells at AS Monaco, Belenenses, Aris and Caykur Rizespor.

Come 2011, Adu’s career was stalling. He was 22 years old and was heading back to MLS, joining the Philadelphia Union in what MLS’ website labelled a ‘blockbuster signing’.

Philadelphia Union v Seattle Sounders

Except it wasn’t. The Ghanian-born forward joined Brazilian side Bahia in 2013.

Bahia released Adu after just seven months and four appearances, with reports of ‘technical deficiencies’ being cited for his early departure.

Spells with Serbian outfit Jagodina and Finnish club KuPS - and their development team KuFu-98 - followed. Talk about a nomadic career.

Then, in July 2015, a 26-year-old Adu returned to the United States. He signed for Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League.

Adu failed to score in 12 appearances for the Rowdies and wasn’t seen again until he joined Las Vegas Lights in March 2018.

The forward scored his first goal in three years when he netted for Las Vegas when he netted in a 4-1 win against Colorado Springs Switchbacks.

But Las Vegas released Adu at the end of the 2018 season and he’s been without a club since.


That’s 14 different clubs in total.

He’s played in the United States, Portugal, France, Greece, Turkey, Brazil, Serbia and Finland.

He’s had unsuccessful trials with Blackpool in England, Stabaek in Norway, AZ Alkmaar in Holland and MLS side Portland Timbers.

Once, he flew to Poland to sign a contract, only to discover he’d been brought in without the manager’s consent.


Adu is 30 now and doesn't appear to have much to offer.

A case of too much too soon, or simply misjudged talent?

Whatever the case, Adu’s career has been a tragic tale.

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