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By Doug Alden
Now that he's 18, U.S. soccer's child prodigy Freddy Adu is an adult — eligible to take his future overseas. Real Salt Lake midfielder Freddy Adu complains about a call during a match against the New York Red Bulls last month. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News) Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News Real Salt Lake midfielder Freddy Adu complains about a call during a match against the New York Red Bulls last month.
Adu is still a member of Real Salt Lake and is preparing to play for the U.S. national team in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup this summer. After that, he could be saying goodbye to Major League Soccer for a shot at playing on the elite fields of Europe.
Hello? Hola? Bonjour? Anybody in Europe still interested?
"You want to get better. You want to challenge yourself. That's where everybody wants to go," Adu said. "For me to get to the next level, that would be really going to Europe and continuing my learning curve at the next level."
Adu turned 18 on June 2, making him eligible under the regulations of international soccer to transfer to a club outside the United States.
Whether the teams abroad are as interested as they were when Adu was a 14-year-old phenom may be another matter. Adu feels his feet are still every bit as nimble as they were four years ago. He just hasn't had many chances to show it lately.
Adu plays for Real Salt Lake, which is winless through its first nine games. He has scored just one goal during the slow start and the rest of the team has combined for only six.
Playing in the smallest market in the league, Adu's profile has faded some since he was traded to Salt Lake by D.C. United in December. He will have a chance to re-establish himself this summer at the U-20 World Cup in Canada.
"I've got to kind of get ready for that," Adu said. "I'm not going to worry about anything else right now, but to focus on playing and let my agent deal with the other stuff."
A good showing against the world's top youth soccer players may revive interest in Adu. His MLS career, so far, hasn't lived up to the hype since D.C. United took him with the top overall draft pick when he was 14.
In his first 96 MLS games, Adu had 12 goals and 18 assists. His relationship with D.C. deteriorated. Adu wasn't happy with the way United was playing him, mostly on the wing instead of his preferred position in midfield. He also had some very public clashes with his coach.
Real Salt Lake went after the frustrated teen, knowing his 18th birthday was coming up and he would be eligible to transfer to a European team. Two months after the trade, RSL finally worked out some messy negotiations over public funding to build a new stadium in the suburbs. RSL got a headliner before the contentious deal was completed, although maybe not permanently.
"Hopefully, we'll be able to work everything out with MLS and these teams from overseas," Adu said.
"Everybody wants to go to Europe because that's where the sport is No. 1. Here it's about sixth on the sports scale," he said. "It's where the passion is. Everything."
Adu's agent, Richard Motzkin, said there is nothing immediately on the horizon. He said there are always talks with international teams involving players with a profile like Adu, but wouldn't say with whom.
"I still think there's a lot more to be written in Freddy's story and in the future," Motzkin said.
Adu worked out last fall with English Premiere League club Manchester United.
Although he hasn't met expectations, those expectations may have been a little unrealistic. Adu is still barely an adult. He said even when he joined Real in December that he still hoped to play for a European team. He said he expected to play the season with Salt Lake, then see what kind of offers he had.