He was once labelled as the “next Pele” after turning pro at age 14, yet his career so far can only be described as an underwhelming fiasco. Freddy Adu was supposed to become a phenomenon, he was destined to become Lionel Messi before there was a Lionel Messi. That is the best way to describe the level of nonsensical hype that surrounded Adu when he began his professional career surprisingly many years ago at the age of 14. An MLS-driven marketing machine proclaimed him their American saviour, and the magazine covers and TV commercials alongside Pele helped make him a household name before he ever became a professional starter.
Fast forward to 2016 and rather than saviour, Adu is seen as a cautionary tale. And he knows all too well what his name has become in the world of soccer, if not all sports. It has become synonymous with failure and unrealized potential. You seemingly can’t go a few months without someone trotting out Adu’s name when discussing sports busts and unmet expectations. But could this all have been prevented somehow? Could this bust have been averted by either player or the various clubs?
From a Football Manager perspective, the choices a player makes off the pitch, while certainly a factor of importance in Adu’s tale, are negligible to us since we cannot influence them. There are other factors we can influence though, factors that could, in an advanced stage of looking for new players warn us to stay away from a certain player.