Freddy Adu, who was offered a contract with Italy’s Inter Milan when he was 11 and signed an endorsement deal with Nike Inc. at age 13, signed with the Philadelphia Union, returning to Major League Soccer on a free transfer from Europe.
It’s the latest move in the career of a player once touted as the future of American soccer who has bounced around European leagues and stayed on the bench this week as the U.S. national team played its first game under coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
The Union and Benfica, the 22-year-old midfielder’s Portuguese club, agreed on the transfer, and Adu has signed, the MLS team said today on its website. The team didn’t reveal financial details of Adu’s contract, citing league policy.
Adu was the No. 1 pick in the 2004 MLS draft and made his debut with D.C. United that year at age 14 as the youngest player on a major U.S. professional team in more than 115 years, according to the Union. The Nike contract that he signed prior to his debut was worth $1 million, the Washington Post reported. In 2006, the same year he had a practice stint with Manchester United of the English Premier League, Adu made $550,000, fifth-most in the league, according to the newspaper.
Adu appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2003 and 2004 and was the Electronic Arts Inc.’s “FIFA Soccer 06” cover athlete. He scored 11 goals and added 17 assists in 87 appearances with D.C. United under current Union coach Peter Nowak, and in 2006 transferred to Real Salt Lake, where he scored twice in 11 games.
In 2007 his rights were secured by Benfica. Adu scored twice in 11 games with the 32-time winners of the Portuguese Premier League, and played on loan for four other European clubs, including AS Monaco, before re-joining the MLS.
On Jan. 22, 2006, Adu made his U.S. national team debut at age 16, the youngest player in team history. Adu has represented the U.S. in u-17 competition, U-20 competition and in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, also under Nowak.
Adu, who was born in Ghana and immigrated to Maryland at age 8, has made 17 appearances on the national team, playing most recently in the team’s 4-2 loss to Mexico on June 25 in the Gold Cup final. He didn’t play in the team’s 1-1 draw with Mexico earlier this week.
The Union are 8-5-9 this year, in second place in the Eastern Conference. The team plays its home games at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania.