Tuesday, August 21, 2007
ESPNsoccernet: November 7, 1:00 PM UK
Much Adu about nothing?
Before LA Beckham arrived in the MLS, Freddy Adu was the golden boy of US soccer: young, skilful, articulate and destined to play for one of the European giants of football. Or at least that's the tale we were sold.
His agents linked their marketable youngster with the likes of Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Manchester United but despite being associated with virtually every G14 club in Europe no solid contract ever materialized.
This summer a dose of reality hit the 'American Soccer Phenomenon' when he joined Benfica for a mere $1.5million. And as the Portuguese Liga kicked-off at the weekend Fredua Koranteng Adu was forced to watch from the stands, having failed to secure a starting berth or a place on the bench.
Although his switch to the Estadio da Luz provided the 18-year-old with a long awaited move to Europe it was hardly the high-profile switch his representatives had been touting. The wunderkind has it all to prove in the Portuguese Liga - where he must at least try to live up to the brouhaha that has been building since before he signed his first professional deal as a 14-year-old.
Back in 2003 the DC United youngster was championed as the Michael Jordan of soccer, who would haul the MLS into the mainstream. Lucrative corporate endorsements with Nike and Pepsi were followed by TV appearances on David Letterman and as his representatives continued to build the brand they claimed Adu had rejected a six figure contract from an Italian team whilst still a 13-year-old amateur at Potomac Cougars.
However, by 2006 the MLS Cup winner was still playing his football in the USA with DC United and cracks were beginning to appear in the relationship. With Adu starting to believe the hype that had surrounded the entirety of his young career; a bust-up with his head coach about the lack of first team playing time ensued, it was politely suggested that he might want to find another club.
In February 2006 The Times reported that a deal had been done with Premier League champions Chelsea, however, yet another manufactured transfer was found to lack substance when DC United president Kevin Payne insisted there were never any negotiations between Chelsea and the MLS, which owns the contracts of all its players.
The Adu camp continued to tout their client around Europe but with no takers coming forward for the 17-year-old, whom, under FIFA rules would be allowed a full transfer to a European club when he turned 18-years-old, a somewhat contrived trail was arranged with Manchester United to further enhance the prodigy's profile.
In December 2006 Adu did get his trial but trained with players from Manchester United's youth academy and upon leaving the Old Trafford club a chastened Adu asserted he didn't wish to play in the rough and tumble of the Premiership anyway and would prefer a move to Spain.
A source close to the forward, without trace of irony, revealed: 'It's fair to say everybody has been surprised by Freddy's level of talent... however, he's said he wants to sign for Real Madrid, because he feels he'll be more suited to Spanish game, which unlike England is less physical.'
Later that month the Ghana-born USA international eventually secured a hard fought switch to Real. Real Salt Lake that is, who currently prop up the MLS Western Conference.
Despite initially positive noises about Salt Lake being the correct club to nurture the forward's talents, the Adu camp were obviously unhappy with the transfer and continued to flaunt their client around Europe.
Serie A side Parma and SPL champions Celtic were both linked with the forward and Adu's LA-based agent Richard Motzkin proclaimed: 'Celtic are coming out for the MLS All-Stars game and I'll be there.'
No deal was brokered with either club.
When Adu turned 18-years-old, the key age under FIFA's rules, in June 2007 the expected deluge of offers from the giant clubs of Europe failed to materialise. Instead, on Monday, 30 July, Benfica issued an official statement announcing that they had signed Adu for a meagre £755,000.
Despite all the marketing, Adu failed to attract the calibre of club he had been informed he would beguile and now the one-time argumentative forward, who has been suspended by his club at various times in his career, is now in position where his hype has been stunted and it is his quality as footballer upon which he must survive.
And his task has become increasingly difficult since Benfica sacked the coach that brought the USA Under-20 captain to Portugal and gave the American his debut as a substitute in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Champions League.
Since that debut win, a 2-1 victory over FC Copenhagen, Adu was omitted from the Liga opener against newly promoted Leixoes at the weekend and his coach, Fernando Santos, has been sacked after drawing with the lowly minnows.
Adu now finds himself at a new club, with a new boss to impress and new challenge to face. His comparatively pampered life as one of the marketable faces of the MLS is far behind and it is time for the youngster's talent to do the talking.
Real Madrid: culebrón del verano
New Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster is already feeling the heat at the Bernabeu after a disastrous pre-season that culminated with a 5-3 defeat to Sevilla in the Super Cup, the curtain raiser to the Spanish season.
But far from being concerned by an overly porous defence the German, in true Real style, is more concerned about problems up front.
When asked whether he was concerned about his team's defensive lapses, Schuster replied: 'What I'm most preoccupied about is that we aren't creating any chances.'
Schuster's approach would appear to be the antithesis of the former regime of Fabio Capello. The Italian may have firmed up Real's defence and delivered their first Liga title since 2003 but he was still sacked for... erm... well, something or other.
Real Madrid begin the defence of their title against city rivals Atletico Madrid at the weekend. Is it beyond the realms of possibility for Schuster to be sacked after a derby day defeat in the first match of the season?
Silly season begins in Serie A
In Italy's curtain-raiser Roma substitute Simone Perrotta managed to get himself sent-off before setting foot on the pitch against Serie A champions Inter Milan.
The Italian international was shown the red-card for dissent, having said something unsavoury to the fourth official, whilst waiting to enter the action.
As Perrotta had not actually replaced a team-mate at the time of his ejection, Roma were able to continue with eleven men and eventually won the Italian Super Cup, after Daniele De Rossi's penalty 12 minutes from time gave them a 1-0 win.
If you have any thoughts you can email Dominic Raynor.