Freddy Adu turns page on club career again, set for Finland chapter
Freddy Adu has done this before. Ten times in fact. But as he was introduced in front of another team banner, answering some of the same questions he's heard for the better part of a decade ("Let's just put that to bed. Nobody's Pelé. I'm no Pelé."), his focus remains clear: Get back to loving the game, and get back to the U.S. national team.
The 25-year-old Adu was introduced by Finnish top-flight side Kupion Palloseura (KuPS) Thursday. It's the 11th team of his wide-ranging career, and he's signed there on a one-year deal. From U.S. prodigy, to bust, to rejuvenated Gold Cup standout, to club nomad, Adu is hoping that KuPS can provide the same kind of jolt to his career that an unorthodox move to then-second-division Turkish side Caykur Rizespor did in 2011.
"I needed to go to a place where I could just play football and enjoy it in peace," Adu told gathered media. "In the past I've made decisions to go to "bigger teams," and when you go to a big team and don't play, it doesn't help you, nobody's happy. My agency, they actually advised me to come here because they thought it would be good for me, for my career to get the love of the game back."
Adu, who says he is "100% fit" after training with a U.S. Under-23 national team trainer while waiting for his next club move, says he has had two training sessions with his new club thus far and was impressed with what he saw.
"It's been absolutely great," Adu said. "Everyone has been so nice, everybody is so welcoming. I felt at home a lot quicker than anywhere else I've been so far.
"When you come to Finland, you don't think that there's going to be guys that are that technical, but I was really surprised and I'm actually really happy to be here, because we were able to play and do some nice combinations on the ball and whatnot, and I'm really looking forward to the season with the team."
Finland has played host to some good memories for Adu before. As part of the U.S. Under-17 national team at the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Championship, he scored four goals in the group stage–including a hat trick in the opener against South Korea–and he recalled his time in the country fondly.
"It was an unbelievable trip," Adu said. "It was actually the first time I had left America since I had been there from Ghana. Just being here with the U-17 national team and doing as well as the team did, and me personally, it was really the beginning of everything for me, so I have great memories from here for sure."
Adu left his most recent club, FK Jagodina in Serbia, after a six-month stint in which he played once, as a substitute. The coach who brought him in was fired a couple of weeks after Adu arrived, making for tough sledding. Adu also claims he wasn't paid–and still hasn't been paid–by the club.
"When a coach signs off on bringing you to the team, he obviously values you, but if he leaves and a new coach comes in and you're not his guy, it's a little more difficult to get on the field. That's not the only reason [I left]. ... I still haven't actually been paid my salary from Serbia. That was something that I didn't expect when I got there. It played a role as well. That's why I was actually able to leave earlier from Serbia, because they couldn't afford the salary or didn't pay the salary ... a lot of guys on the team ended up leaving early."
Early indications are that Adu is at a place where he and the coach have a good understanding, even though, as SI's Grant Wahl reports, the club didn't scout him in person and just relied on video before signing him.
"The one thing that has been great so far is that when I came here, coach sat me down and spoke to me," Adu said. "That was a little different. I haven't been on any team in Europe where the coach actually sat me down when I got there, spoke to me about tactics, about everything. I've had that in America, but I've never had it in Europe.
"I thought that was great. We all know as a player the coach is the No. 1 influence on your career. If you have a good relationship with your coach and you're on the same page, that's when things go right."
As for Adu's big-picture aim, a return to the U.S. men's national team is on the radar. He hasn't played for the U.S. under Jurgen Klinsmann, and his last call-up came under Bob Bradley at the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
"Of course," Adu said. "That's every footballer's dream is to be able to represent the national team. My national team is the USA. I've been there before. I haven't been there for a while and I would like to get back there. That's a goal and I know this is the way to do it. Coming here, working your socks off for the team and helping the team win and making a difference. When you do that, everything else takes care of itself."
Adu's 11th team begins its season April 12 against promoted side KTP.