Photo: AP Images
Nike chairman Phil Knight once told Sports Illustrated that 13-year old soccer phenom Freddy Adu had the potential to accomplish more than Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, or LeBron James. Knight went on to explain Adu’s potential…“Freddy has the potential to bring soccer almost for the first time into the public’s consciousness. Soccer in the United States isn’t really part of the culture. What it needs, I think, is a superhero, and he clearly could be it. Now, that’s putting a lot of pressure on him, but the kid’s got all the potential to do that.”
10 years later, most American sports fans probably don’t even know Adu is still playing soccer and still scoring goals. Only Adu is not playing in Europe. And he rarely suits up for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
But they do know that he never became that superhero.
The following spring, Adu was the highest-paid player in Major League Soccer, making $500,000 per year
When he suited up for DC United at the age of 14, he became the youngest US professional athlete in more than 100 years
But in the next 2 seasons combined, Adu only scored 6 more goals and he was traded to Real Salt Lake
He would only play in 11 games for Real Salt Lake before he was sold to Portuguese club Benfica for $2 million
Most of his time in Europe was spent on loan scoring just 5 goals with 4 different clubs, ending his European stint in the Turkish second-division
Having never made an impact in Europe, Adu returned to MLS in 2011 signing with the Philadelphia Union making less than $500,000 in salary
Adu has had a successful career with the U.S. national youth teams, scoring 37 goals in 59 career matches
At 18, he served as captain for the under-20 national team in the 2007 U-20 World Cup scoring a hat trick against Poland and helped the U.S. to a win over Brazil
However with the US Men's National Team, Adu has scored just 2 goals and was even left off the roster for 2 years before being re-added last year for the Gold Cup
Adu, now 23, is still playing for the Philadelphia Union where he has started 7 of 11 games, but has just 1 goal and 1 assist
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