Closing the book on Freddy

Photo: Nicolae Stoian

Chances are, you’ll never know the full story behind Freddy Adu’s departure from Philadelphia Union.

Union officials have said about all they’re going to say about it. Adu hasn’t talked to U.S. media about it. What remains are claims, rumor, innuendo, and bits of facts that don’t add up to much more than an incomplete story.

What’s known on the contract situation is the following:

  • Adu and the Union agreed to terminate his contract.
  • Adu signed a one-year contract with Bahia, according to his agent, Richard Motzkin.
  • Adu’s replacement, Kleberson, will join the Union from Bahia on a one-year loan, with the Union holding an option tor renew the loan, according to Union officials. The Union declined to release other contract details.
  • The Union probably paid off some of Adu’s contract, but the buyout terms remain unknown. (Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz told PSP Adu was due $650,000 in 2013. Adu had two years remaining on his contract, according to Motzkin, who declined to confirm the salary figures.)

“We reached a fair resolution for both parties, and there was some compromise on both sides,” Motzkin told the Philly Soccer Page on Tuesday. “While it was unfortunate that it didn’t work out in Philadelphia, this was a good solution.”

Motzkin’s words may be as close as U.S. media get to Adu any time soon. Motzkin said he advised Adu to stay quiet during the off-season. That could continue. Motzkin said Adu’s task is to focus on soccer and what’s on the field, not off it.

“I think in any situation, there are multiple sides to a story,” Motzkin said. “At the end of the day, if Philadelphia didn’t want him back, barring his willingness to take a major pay cut, then everyone made their decisions.”

Assessing the Adu-Kleberson trade

There will be little difference between how Kleberson and Adu affect the Union’s salary cap. Kleberson will be a designated player, like Adu. Each counts $368,750 toward the team’s league-mandated salary budget of $2.95 million. The Union would pay the rest of Kleberson’s salary out of pocket, unless Bahia picks up part of the tab. Brazilian reports put Kleberson’s salary at over $1 million annually, and some have indicated a third party owner — probably MLS — may pick up part of Adu’s salary. Much remains unconfirmed, however, and the real deal on their contract situations remains somewhat nebulous.

So how do you evaluate how the Union made out on the deal? Hard to say until Kleberson shows something on the field for the Union.

The Union acquired a 33-year-old midfielder and former World Cup star who spent 2011 on loan to a club subsequently relegated and then signed with a new team, Bahia, that discarded him less than a year later.

The Union parted with a 23-year-old alleged prima donna midfielder who has yet to consistently realize his (perceived) high potential.

An autopsy of Adu’s Union tenure

In the end, Adu’s time with the Union can be described fairly simply.

  • The Union overpaid him and played him out of position.
  • Adu underperformed in relation to his salary.
  • Things did not go well with Adu within the team, leading to his benching at the end of the 2012 season.
  • Union manager John Hackworth decided he did not want to compound his predecessor’s mistake in dedicating one-fifth of the team’s salary budget to Adu.

So Adu is gone to Brazil, where playing defense is optional and failing again is probably not.

Adu is still unquestionably a pretty good soccer player, even if he has not met bloated expectations. Americans often measure athletes by their stats, but Adu’s seven goals and two assists in 35 games with Philadelphia don’t tell the full tale. One can simply watch the anti-highlight reel of goal-scoring chances Adu created in 2012 to see his quality. One could also watch the litany of Union games he failed to influence to see his flaws.

“Freddy’s still only 23 years old,” Motzkin said. “He’s still young. He still has some soccer abilities that are unique that he’s demonstrated at different times. Ultimately, he needs to prove it consistently at the club level and, if he gets another chance, the national level. I think what I would say is I wouldn’t count him out.”

NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect the additional information that the Union can renew Kleberson’s loan.


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