FORMER wonderkid Freddy Adu is now 32, without a club and staring at the last knockings of a career full of ‘what might have beens’.
The original golden child exploded on to the scene in America when he was just 14 when he was signed by MLS giants DC United.
Then, at the same age, he became the youngest scorer in US professional football with a goal against New Jersey MetroStars, who later became the New York Red Bulls.
That prompted Nike to snap Adu up on a $1million (£730,000) sponsorship deal, while ESPN said he was a better sporting prospect than LeBron James.
Even Brazilian legend Pele compared the prodigy to Mozart for displaying such an incredible ability at such a young age.
However, Adu’s career soon became a disappointment – with the pressure of being America’s great hope too much and expectation becoming a burden.
After a failed trial at Man Utd, spells in Portugal with Benfica and Monte Carlo with Monaco, Adu ended up back in his homeland trying to pick up the pieces of a life that should have been.
Today, he’s without a club after playing for Swedish third tier side Osterlen FF.
Hype can be a dangerous thing for any youngster and Adu’s story is a cautionary tale of much too much, much too young.
In 2004, he became the youngest ever athlete to sign a professional contract with a sports club when DC United offered him a deal.
Within three months, he made his debut to become the youngest ever MLS star.
Two weeks later, he netted his first goal – a tap-in in a 3-2 loss to MetroStars.
America went wild for their new son, who had arrived from Ghana when he was eight in 1997.
He appeared in adverts for soft-drink giants Sierra Mist, alongside three-time World Cup winner Pele, who was mightily impressed.
“Mozart started when he was five years old,” Pele said.
“If you are good, you are good. God gave Freddy the gift to play soccer.”
In 2004, at the age of 16, Adu landed a trial with Premier League giants Manchester United.
Sir Alex Ferguson must have been a fan of the Championship Manager (now Football Manager) video game series, which predicted Freddy would become a global superstar in years to come. Fans of the game, in fact, still talk about him fondly as the greatest wonderkid you could sign.
But the reality was far different. Although he impressed, work permit problems got in the way of any prospective United deal.
“Freddy has done all right. He is a talented boy,” Fergie said at the time.
“He’ll go back to the US and we’ll keep a… Brinkwire Brief News.