By the time he had turned 25, the diminutive Ghanaian-born American had no only had his relationship woes covered by Ryan Seacrest but also played for the U.S at every youth level, captained of one of the most successful squads in MLS, while appearing nearly 20 times for the senior national team and of course, made millions of dollars yet, you may not have heard of him since he is not Paul Pogba, Neymar Jr or Cristiano Ronaldo.
Freddy Adu was labelled “the next Pele” back in 2003 when he was just 13 years old after signing a lucrative contract with Nike, which followed a permanent move to MLS side D.C United becoming the youngest athlete ever to sign a professional contract in the United States at only 14 years of age.
Lightning quick, precision, skillful and gifted with tactical awareness, Adu had it all, at the time that is, had the world at his feet and was to be as Ives Galarcep phrases it “Lionel Messi before there was a Lionel Messi.” In fact, in 2005 Adu was a bigger name than Messi, yet the latter at 18 was older than the former who was only 16 years.
In that year, the FIFA World Youth Championships stage was set to pin the two footballers against each other, the type of relationship Messi now shares with Cristiano Ronaldo with Adu expected to enjoy a better performance and of course, the better career. In the fixture where USA played Argentina, Adu’s team emerged victorious and although Messi was merely introducing himself to the world the argentine wonder went on to win the competition with his country as well as winning both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards.
The two footballers were the most hyped youngsters of their generation however, at the time gap between the them wasn’t as obvious, if anything the two were equally gifted but popular perception according to comments on the Big Soccer forum had Adu the superior player.
“Their skill levels are similar and Freddy is younger as well.” -Sempuukyaku
“Messi was great, but Freddy was just as great IMHO. Plus, he was a heck of a lot more entertaining” -Caulfield
“I saw nothing Messi did that would make me think he is any better than Adu at this level” -Onionsack
“I thought Messi was very explosive very fast, good quick turning. But I think Adu was superior overall” -pokemoncards
“Freddy Adu honestly could be one of the best players in the world one day” -Saeyddthe
“Freddy looked like a young Ronaldinho out there at times. Great setups & drew many fouls & a PK” -aartef redded
“Freddy showed more skill with the ball than Messi and much more of a defensive effort than he will ever get credit for” -FC Tallavana
“I’m sure Adu at age 18 will be far better than Messi at age 18… “-krayzie
“Just wait for 2 more years then u gonna regret why we’re comparing Messi and Adu because Adu is gonna be 18 and he is gonna ask u who messi is and where did he come from.” -soccerdude_200
Fast forward to 2017, while Messi has gone on to win a record five Fifa Ballon D’ors as well as rated as arguably the greatest player of all time, Adu now plays his trade at North American Soccer League club Tampa Bay Rowdies well becoming a cautionary tale probably in football history, synonymous with failure and unrealized potential.
While Adu has endure tough spells that saw him out of football for five years, his career has seen him play for more than a dozen clubs, with few of those moves yielding any success, an inconsistency that has earned the American the label, failure of all time.
At 26, Adu will hold on to the consolation that he is yet to reach the peak of his career and better yet he never asked to be compared to Pele in the first place. It’s such a shame that the “Savior’’ of American football, world football for that matter, has been reduced to shreds-a talking point when discussing unmet expectations in sport.
While Adu is a living lesson to youngsters hoping to be world beaters, the fans and pundits alike can pick a thing or two on player career predictions. It’s easy to call most of the fans on the forum idiots for their Adu predictions but no one could have guessed how his career could pan out so is the case with Lionel Messi.
Edu looks pretty gifted to me