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Positive role model and mentor needed to solve enigmatic Adu

Remember Freddy Adu? He used to be Neymar. Well, in terms of his potential to go on and become ‘the next big thing’ that is.

It hasn’t really worked out like that though.

After being left on the bench for one game by manager John Hackworth, Adu (pictured) regained his place in the starting lineup for Philadelphia Union this weekend, playing 80 minutes of a lifeless 0-0 draw with New England before making way for Keon Daniel.

It was hardly the inspired performance Hackworth was expecting in response.

Pundits have been quick to ring the bell on Adu’s pedestrian career, listing the Washington D.C. native as one of the biggest underachievers in football history.

Eighth club since 2004

Philadelphia are Freddy’s eighth club since 2004, a journey that has included two stints in MLS, as well as spells with Benfica, AS Monaco, Belenenses, and in Greece and Turkey’s second division.

One often-cited reason for Adu’s demise is that he has made limited progress on the flaws many saw in his play over ten years ago, after signing what was then the most lucrative contract in MLS history, with his hometown club D.C. United.

Too often, the Ghanian-American tries to dazzle around multiple defenders, typically with what one coach called “unnecessary stepovers,” rather than finding an open team-mate elsewhere.

Adu is known for expecting to be the epicentre of his team’s attack, despite very limited credentials to date, an act that wears thin rather quickly on coaches and team-mates alike.

Hackworth himself described Adu earlier this year as “too self-centered.”

“He is kind of like a luxury car,” said Alexi Lalas on ESPN, where the former American international and L.A. Galaxy general manager is now a broadcast analyst. “He is just not practical.”

Still only 23

Lalas is not wrong but there is one point about Adu that is often overlooked: he is only 23-years-old.

Adu signed with United soon after his 14th birthday. D.C. saw a prodigious talent who seemed destined to significantly raise the profile of MLS and U.S. Soccer.

Freddy was also joining a United squad that included then-16-year-old phenoms Santino Quaranta and Bobby Convey.

Unlike Quaranta and Convey however, Adu was not meant to be a long-term academy/reserve team project. He was signed to be the focal point of the attack immediately.

Under those conditions, Adu’s career stagnated while the teenager learned to cope with life as a professional footballer.

Pressure

One can only imagine the amount of pressure put on Adu at such a young age. There was no way that anyone could have expected a 14-year-old to handle all of that.

The experiment was doomed from the start. Naturally, when the experiment failed after two seasons, D.C. United traded Adu to Real Salt Lake.

At each of his next stops, in both the U.S. and in Europe, Adu was signed to be the focal point of his team’s attack but never got the training and foundation to develop in his own right as a player.

Which is why, at 23-years-old, Adu is considered washed-up.

Last winter, Adu signed with Philadelphia before the MLS season on the advice of U.S. national team manager Juergen Klinsmann, who told the youngster to seek more regular playing time.

Veteran presence

What Adu needs right now, more than anything, is a veteran presence to guide him through the rigours of top-flight football.

He needs a mentor, one that will take Freddy under his wing. Adu needs to learn how to handle the lifestyle and travails of a professional athlete and how best to channel his skills into success and results.

It is what separates the teen phenoms who realize their potential from those who fizzle out.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney had Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes at Manchester United. Lionel Messi had Javier Saviola and Rafael Marquez at Barcelona.

This is true no matter how many generations you go back. Even the great Pele had Waldemar de Brito, though the latter had already retired before Pele’s career began with Santos.

After a very trying season, Freddy Adu’s days in Philadelphia are probably numbered.

However there is still time for all of the promise surrounding Adu to come to fruition.

All it takes is for someone to truly believe in Adu, take him under his wing and finally give him the guidance and mentorship he has badly needed for the past ten years.

By Sreesha Vaman - Follow me on Twitter @sreeshavaman

Follow Total Football on Twitter: @TotalFootball12

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