ROCKVILLE, Md. (BVM) – Where is Freddy Adu – the wonderkid who was once widely considered to be “America’s Pelé?” – now? Adu’s name is still brought up in the world of soccer, most recently alongside 16-year-old Brazilian footballer Endrick Felipe, who is currently being courted by some of the elite European soccer clubs including Chelsea F.C., Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Commonly referred to as Endrick, but dubbed the “next Neymar,” there’s a potential transfer out of Palmeiras in the works and the buy-out alone would cost Chelsea a staggering €60 million (~$61 million). Although Adu was never worth that much, the rise and fall of his professional career that started at the age of 14 serves as a cautionary tale for young, hyped-up players today like Endrick.
What happened to Freddy Adu?
Adu, who lived in Rockville, Maryland at the time in 2004, became the youngest athlete to ever sign a professional MLS contract when he joined D.C. United at just 14 years old. But, in his three seasons with the team, he only scored 11 goals and made 11 assists in 87 games.
“I’m glad I had a chance to do that [join D.C. United],” Adu said in a podcast with Grant Wahl in 2021. “I felt ready. I do wish that it was just me getting into it playing soccer. There was so much going on at the time and it was just so hard to deal with as a 14-year-old. That’s the only thing I would have done differently.”
Adu was unable to find successful footing as he went on to play with several other teams in Europe and South America. He did return to the MLS to play for the Philadelphia Union in 2011 for what would be the start of his last two seasons in the league. By the conclusion of the 2012 season, he was 23 years old and only managed to score seven goals and two assists in 35 games.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber also voiced his opinion in the podcast episode on what went wrong with Adu’s career as a young player.
“I’ve seen all these comments over the years of what the league did to him and I don’t think we did anything,” Garber said… “Those around him all seized a moment and that moment was driven by Freddy’s desire to be in that moment. I hear it every time there’s a young great player, ‘Let’s not over-promote this guy so that X doesn’t happen.’ I don’t think this is about individuals or entities making those decisions. These are things that just create a life of their own and that’s what happened with Freddy.”
Adu’s most recent comeback attempt was with Sweden’s third division team, Osterlen FF, in 2021.
“[Osterlen] presents me with an opportunity to play, my problem in the past has been not playing enough and not getting the game time I needed to really improve as a player,” Adu continued in the podcast as he joined the team.
However, Adu was ultimately cut for having “a lot of football in him, but the physical and the mental are missing,” as reported by SBI Soccer.
To date, Adu’s stats in his nearly 20-year professional career consists of 23 goals and 21 assists in 195 games played. To put that into perspective, Pelé in his 22-year professional career managed to make 757 goals and 343 assists in 812 games. It’s a pretty stark contrast against the person he was once predicted to become.
Today, although the now-33-year-old doesn’t have a trophy case full of World Cups, he does hope his legacy will be “the guy that put soccer really on the map in America for the general public” and for African Americans in particular, as Adu goes on to state in the podcast.
Adu’s net worth is $12 million according to Celebrity Net Worth. He has taken some hiatus from the game, but he hasn’t officially retired on the record yet. According to his Instagram, he’s currently coaching youth soccer players in Maryland.
Adu’s story is continuously brought up as a cautionary example for other wonderkids. Endrick, currently one of the most wanted teenage soccer players in the world, is said to be the next hit like Neymar. Others say him potentially signing with an elite European club sounds eerily similar and sets him up to be a miss like Adu.