Former United States starlet Freddy Adu has claimed he was once a better player than Angel Di Maria while admitting that he made a mistake in leaving Benfica at the start of his European football journey. Adu made history when he became the youngest American to sign a major professional contract in any team sport at the age of 14, with D.C. United bringing him onto their books during the 2004 Super Draft.
The Ghana-born forward went on to score 11 goals in 94 senior matches for the MLS outfit before being sold to Real Salt Lake, where he further enhanced his reputation as one of the most talented young players in world football.
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Benfica won the race to bring Adu to Europe when they forked out £1 million to sign the teenager in July 2007, but he struggled for regular playing time during his first season in Portugal. The ex-United States international was sent out on loan to Monaco the following year after only managing four goals in 17 appearances for the Primeira Liga giants, which marked the beginning of a downward spiral.
Adu also took in loan spells at Belenenses, Aris, and Caykur Rizespor before Benfica cut their losses on the attacker and accepted an offer from Philadelphia Union in 2011. The 31-year-old has since played for clubs in Brazil, Serbia, and Finland, with his latest venture coming in Sweden with Division One outfit Osterlen FF.
Looking back on a turbulent career that has ultimately seen him fail to live up to his early promise, Adu has expressed regret over his decision to join Monaco after overshadowing Di Maria at Benfica.
The Argentine moved to Estadio Da Luz at the same time as the American but has gone on to enjoy a far more successful career, carving out a reputation among the elite wingers in the game during stints at Real Madrid, Manchester United, and PSG.
“The biggest mistake I made in my career was leaving Benfica on loan to Monaco,” Adu told The Blue Wire Podcast. “I say it from the heart. It was one of those decisions that, if I could take it again, I wouldn’t make it. “I had three coaches in a year in Benfica. The club was in such a dysfunctional moment that I just wanted to get out of there and go the other way as soon as possible.
“But it turned out to be the worst decision. I joined the club at the same time as Di María. In the first year, I was better than him. “I played better than him, but I decided to leave for Monaco on loan. And Di María stayed at Benfica. And guess what?
“He had the chance to play with a coach who later came and became a starter. A year or two later he went to Real Madrid. And I ended up being loaned to a secondary team. “I made the worst possible decision for my career. It is my biggest regret.”