Back in January 2004, MLS side DC United signed a then 14-year-old Ghanian-born attacking midfielder who was seen as the next big thing, his name, Fredua Koranteng, famously known as Freddy Adu.
The contract made him the youngest athlete ever in the history of America to sign a professional contract, and was seen as the heir to Pele's golden crown.
Apart from the record above, he was the highest-paid player in the league and was regarded as the face of American football.
Adu was born in June 1989, in Tema, Ghana but was grew up in Maryland after his family moved to the US when he was only eight. He broke out into the scene at a young age, and he showed immeasurable potential attracting the attention of a host of European powerhouses.
Inter Milan were the first to come calling when he was 11, but the mother did not allow his son to move, choosing to keep him in the US as he continued his development.
He finally signed for DC United at 14, and developed through the ranks at the club.
Man United trials
At 16, Adu reportedly had trials with English giants Manchester United, and the club is said to have been impressed.
The then manager Alex Furguson and other official agreed to monitor Adu’s progress for the preceding two years with the hope of signing him when he turned 18.
“Freddy has done all right,” Ferguson said. “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.
“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 was unable to secure a work permit when the time came, and his dreams of wearing the famous red jersey were shattered.
The midfielder captained the USA team at the Under-20 World cup and was impressive through the tournament, becoming the only player to appear in three such tournaments.
Moves abroad to Benfica
Before turning 19, Adu made his long-awaited switch to Europe, signing for Benfica, eventually making his debut for the Lisbon-based side against Copenhagen in a UEFA Champions League qualifying match.
Things didn’t go as planned in Portugal, and it was the beginning of the end for his young career that was only starting.
He did not feature much for the side and was shipped out on loan to Monaco, Belenenses, Aris Thessaloniki and Caykur Rives per in quick succession .
After his stint with Benfica and the loan moves, Adu decided to move back to the MLS and joined Philadelphia Union, and at only 22, he still had time to achieve his dreams and he believed so.
“By the age of 25, I wanted to be playing in England or Spain – and not just playing but be a regular starter for my team,” he told ESPN. “I’m 22 this year. In three years’ time, I see myself playing in one of those leagues.
“A lot of people might not know this, but that’s been my goal all along. I wanted to be an established regular for a team like Portugal or France before that. That’s why I chose to go to Portugal instead of going straight from here to England or Spain.”
However, this never happened, and it was clear his career was on a downward trajectory and moving at an alarming rate.
He moved from MLS once again, this time heading to Brazil with Bahia, where familiar struggles popped up. He failed to nail down a regular spot at the club and was eventually released.
From trials at Man United to trying his luck at lowly-placed teams like Blackpool, Stabaek and AZ Alkmaar, where he actually failed to earn a deal, Adu’s star was dimming with each passing day.
Adu's career journey
- 2004–2006 D.C. United
- 2007 Real Salt Lake
- 2007–2011 Benfica
- 2008–2009 AS Monaco (loan)
- 2009 Belenenses (loan)
- 2010 Aris (loan)
- 2011 Çaykur Rizespor (loan)
- 2011–2013 Philadelphia Union
- 2013 Bahia
- 2014 Jagodina
- 2015 KuPS
- 2015 KuFu-98 (loan)
- 2015–2016 Tampa Bay Rowdies
- 2018 Las Vegas Lights
Where is he now?
Edu hasn't played in any top-flight league for over five seasons now, but he is still one of the most famous athletes in the US. He currently trains young kids at Next Level Soccer, having been persuaded by two of his friends to help them out.
He drives nearly an hour each way to practice sessions near Baltimore twice or thrice a week, and is happy to help the budding footballers realize their dreams and reach their potential.
In a recent interview with ESPN, Adu noted that he is not done yet and that there is a lot more he can do.
"I'm still plenty young. I'm not ready to give it up. Things haven't gone the way that I would have wanted them to, obviously. But I love the sport too much to say I'm ready to give it up,"