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At the tender age of 16, American wonderkid Freddy Adu appeared to have the world at his feet.
He'd already penned a seven-figure endorsement deal with Nike and was one of the most sought-after youngsters in world football. But despite having trials at one of the biggest clubs in the world in Manchester United – and the backing of their legendary manager, Sir Alex Ferguson – and a shedload of hype, Adu celebrates his 33rd birthday on Thursday on the footballing scrapheap.
After a string of uninspiring spells at a staggering 15 clubs, Adu has failed to find a new home since his short-term stint with Swedish outfit Osterlen FF was cut short. The attacking midfielder was cut loose after just a month last year.
Adu's underwhelming career could – and should – have been a different story after he became an internet sensation as a teenager. Adu was tracked by a host of big-name admirers, including Manchester United, who even invited the youngster to England for a two-week trial back in 2006.
Adu rubbed shoulders with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs during his stint at United – and according to Ferguson's verdict, the talented teen didn't look out of place amongst United's star-studded squad. Ferguson told the BBC back in 2006: “Freddy has done all right. 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."
And although Fergie admitted the club were interested in signing Adu, they were unable to do so because of his age. He added: “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. He is a very confident and good, young boy but there is nothing we can do about him.”
Are there any other hyped-up players like Adu who failed to make the grade that you can think of? Let us know in the comments section
But unfortunately for Adu, that proved to be the final chapter in the brief story of the DC United prodigy and England's biggest club, with United deciding against making a move for the midfielder once he'd turned 18.
However, Adu still ranks on the experience of playing with United's superstars as one of the "coolest moments" of his career. Speaking last December, he told British Gambler: “At that point, that was the coolest moment of my career when I went to Manchester United, I was only 16 years old at the time.
"I was there for almost a month and I got to meet everybody like Wayne Rooney – and it was when Manchester United were at the peak of their powers. Cristiano Ronaldo was there at the time and it was when he was becoming the best player in the world. [Paul] Scholes was still there, [Ryan] Giggs was still there – it was amazing!”
After seeing his hopes of a dream move to Old Trafford dashed, Adu was snapped up by Portuguese giants Benfica just a year later.
But unfortunately, Adu's career has been on a downward trajectory ever since. The midfielder did earn full international honours with the United States, but he failed to live up to his undoubted potential during spells with the likes of Monaco and Aris down the years.
Sadly, it's very much a case of what could have been for Adu, who had the potential to conquer the world.
- Manchester United FC
- Premier League
- Sir Alex Ferguson
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