Freddy Adu has been in Spain for what seems like five minutes, but already he views it as his future if chances open to him. Therein lies the problem with Adu: his ambition to play in Europe will once again be detrimental to both his current team and to his soccer career.
While Rayo Vallecano wanted to sign Adu during the international summer transfer window, Adu chose to return to Major League Soccer where he career first started with D.C. United in 2004. The main reason is rather clear, as Adu has one of the more expensive contracts in the entire league despite failing to ever settle in Europe during his failures there, nor during his time in MLS.
Money and the possibility of finally unlocking his full potential is what made Adu the first choice on the Philadelphia Union during the latter part of the 2011 MLS season. Head coach Piotr Nowak wanted a second chance at attempting to help turn Adu into the American Pele that he was advertised to be as a teenager.
Yet Adu wasn't the best player on the Union in 2011, not even during his short stint. He wasn't even the best midfielder. Not even the best creative or central attacking midfielder. Young Colombian Roger Torres has the right to claim that last distinction based on his improved ball control and defense last year.
Adu can point to an injured ankle, something he picked up during his fantastic Gold Cup run with the US National Team, but he can't use it as a legitimate excuse for what he showed on the field in MLS in Philadelphia. If a player is deemed healthy enough to start, then that player is expected to perform at the same level as ever other player on the field. Simply put, Adu failed to uphold even the most average of standards in the majority of his appearances and starts for the Union.
"Being around these La Liga players is a privilege and an honor," Adu said to ESPN. "It's more about your football brain here, and I really feel like La Liga suits me best..."
The 22-year-old may think he's suited for the speedy attacking nature of the game in Spain's La Liga, but his inability to produce effective efforts in MLS show that he hasn't come that far from his early years in America. While his strength will not be a problem in Spain as it is in America (as in he lacks it, still), his agility, speed, vision and decision making are questionable in MLS, which does not require the same level of creative quality as La Liga.
Spain feeds upon no look passes, spot on crosses and quick decision making, among a multitude of other qualities seen in players like Jesus Navas and Xavi. The physical nature of MLS places less emphasis on these qualities, but those that have them immediately become high thought of within the league. Adu is just not one of those players, currently.
A list of poor, lacking or anti-sportsmanship attributes, based upon Adu's display solely for the Union in 2011, is as follows: poor first touch, dismal on the ball decisions, diminish forward vision, indefensibly bad short and long passing, constant demanding of the ball, over confidence in dribbling skills, disappearance of first step speed burst, lateral movement seemingly non-existent (versus his display in the Gold Cup), an always sigh worthy shot selection and wasteful freekicks.
Each of those attributes could be ascribed to a lack of training time to get in tune with teammates, his ankle injury or the extreme of going from second division Turkey to top league America. In the end, they don't excuse his limitations at the moment.
The Union are at a point where MLS Cup isn't that far out of reach and the team is still incredibly young. It's reasonable to believe that the team's starting line up in 2012 will feature at least five players under the age of 25, if not more by the end of the season. Adu's bloated salary forces the Union to either pay it down below the $335,000 max salary threshold, or take him on as a designated player at that same hit. The large youth movement within the Union's roster means that money is going to start becoming tight, especially with Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney all but assured of graduating from the Generation Adidas program after this season.
Letting Rayo take Adu to Spain would benefit the Union slightly financially, given the fact that he's only been on the team for a short period of time and that the Union signed him on a free transfer from Benfica. But it is the existential benefits of Adu's departure that should be looked at in these circumstances.
Fan favorite Torres' status with the Union in 2012 is still unknown. His one year loan from America de Cali was extended through the 2011 season by the Union, but no one knows if Cali wants to bring him back to Colombia, or if the Union will purchase his contractual rights. A third year on loan seems unlikely given Cali's financial situation after being relegated, for the first time in the team's long history, to Colombia's second division. Any money from the sale of Adu to Rayo would be usable for the purchase of Torres on a permanent transfer, which would parallel the sale of Calros Ruiz to Veracruz, in the Mexican second division, and the purchase of Carlos Valdes from Independiente Santa Fe, a team in Colombia's top league.
Given the benefits from his sale, and his apparent ambition to leave Philadelphia and MLS at the fist sign of re-entry into Europe, it's time to let go of Adu... already. It's rather unfortunate because it appeared that Adu was truly set to try to rebuild his career in Philadelphia and was at least attempting to win over fans after games. He was saying all the right things before his phone interview with ESPN, but that indicates it was all a farce.