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Monday, December 11, 2006

Adu goes to Real, but not the one in Madrid

After 3 years of intense media scrutiny, growing pains, flashes of brilliance, along with temper tantrums, Freddy Adu was traded (the American term known as transfer in the rest of the soccer world) to Real Salt Lake. Along with goalkeeper Nick Rimando. Not to Real Madrid or any other European club that his advisors may have envisioned a few years ago. The timing of this transaction was interesting. A few weeks ago, Freddy had a two week trial with Manchester United.

In my opinion, this whole situation, which began three years ago, was never handled properly. Adu was anointed the next Pele' by marketers thirsty to drive fans into empty seats, and eyes in front of televisions not normally tuned to soccer. It was unnecessary and unrealistic pressure to place on a 14 year old adolescent. He was paid over a half million dollars a year, but some of his DC United teammates only earned $30,000 as grown men. How would that scenario play out in a factory or office? Would the soccer locker room be any different? He still needed to learn the game, but was given a healthy advance on his anticipated future returns.

Peter Nowak, the coach of DC United, handled the situation perhaps better than anyone. He realized the precocious talents of Adu, but understood that he had to fit into the team image. Last year during the playoffs, Adu was benched when he failed to apologize for criticism of Nowak. Many coaches in the MLS would not have been brave enough to act in this manner. But then, Nowak is not an ordinary coach. He played as a young man in Poland, and competed internationally for his country. With Adu, he was placed in a no-win situation. He had to balance the needs of his team, along with phenomenon known as Team Adu. In the end, it was interesting to see who was traded. And who was not fired.

Young Freddy will be reunited with his U-17 coach, John Ellinger, at Real Salt Lake. He wants to be the star, and we shall see what happens. One thing is certain. Either he learns how to play the game with his 10 teammates, or all the talent in the world will not help him. As Americans, we hope that Adu fulfills his promise. But in my humble opinion, Mrs. Adu should have taken the deal from Inter Milan several years ago. Freddy may not have had the celebrity or fortune that he enjoys today at the tender age of 17. But perhaps Freddy Adu, the person and the soccer player, would have developed within a more conducive environment. Where talent and passion for the game is valued over media promotion, unrealistic expectations, and selling a bill of goods before its maturity date.

Here is the complete story by Steven Goff of The Washington Post. He is one of the best writers who cover soccer in this country: Adu is Headed West in A Trade.

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