Can there be any soccer fan in the United States who has not heard about Freddy Adu?
Still only 19 years old, it seems that Adu has been part of the collective soccer consciousness for the past five years.
Adu, who was born in Ghana but moved to the United States when was eight years old, caught the eye of scouts from Inter Milan, the Italian powerhouse, when he was only 10. At age 12, he joined the IMG Academy, a full-time residency program operated by the United States Soccer Federation in Florida.
Two years later, Adu's appealing smiling face was plastered on the front sports page of nearly every newspaper in the United States, a breakthrough for the game, when he signed a lucrative $500,000 contract with Major League Soccer and went to play for his hometown club, D.C. United.
But as a young man among grown men, Adu struggled on the field and off, trying to adapt to the real world where there were real world expectations. After two seasons in Washington, which included 87 games and 11 goals, Adu was shipped to Real Salt Lake, where he spent some of the 2006-7 season. But everyone knew that would not last long, Adu in particular. He had never been bashful about his ultimate goal -- playing soccer in Europe. That dream came true after Adu turned in a strong performance for the United States at the 2007 FIFA U20 World Cup in Canada and he was transferred from M.L.S. to the Portuguese club Benefica of Lisbon in time for the start of the 2007 season. But being Freddy Adu in Europe is not the same as being Freddy Adu in M.L.S. More competition. More pressure. Less coddling. Welcome to the big time.
Now, bigger physically and perhaps a bit more mature, Adu is in the picture for the senior national team, but first he will feature for the U.S. Olympic team in the Beijing Games. Adu will be the midfield focal point for the American attack. Then it will be back to Europe to start anew with a new team, Monaco of France, which engineered a season-long loan for Adu to play in Ligue 1.