At Offers.Bet, we spoke to the former American Football Manager Wonderkid, Freddy Adu. Freddy spoke about the impressive Arsenal youngster Ethan Nwaneri, the Premier League’s youngest ever player, and gave advice on handling life as a child prodigy, but how impressed he is by the emerging Gunners talent.
Freddy also went into never-spoken-about details of his trial with Man U, including finding out about the opportunity whilst sitting down with his family, playing foot-golf with Paul Scholes and why Ronaldo was the nicest guy going by letting Freddy know that he was not alone whilst in Manchester.
Freddy also labelled Jude Bellingham as the biggest and best wonderkid in today’s modern game, and how Arsenal were also one of the interested parties in signing him in the Thierry Henry era.
Adu went on to disclose that after having had to be close to family, he’s now ready to get back into the shape of his life and happy to go on trial in order to prove himself to any club willing to give him the opportunity. His love for the game of football and the knowledge that he has more to give, will not see him give up on the game that he loves so dearly.
You can read the full interview below – enjoy!
Ethan Nwaneri (Arsenal) became the youngest ever player in the Premier League at just 15 years old against Brentford. How impressed are you with him and making his debut in arguably the best league in the world at such a young age?
I think Ethan is extremely impressive, especially given the league that he’s making that debut in the Premier League, which is the best league in the world. To get your debut at 15 and for a big team at that, in that league; that’s pretty impressive.
What were your learnings from being that same child prodigy at age 14? You were obviously a child star as well – what should Ethan be doing to best handle the situation of playing at such a young age?
There are a lot of distractions when you’re at that age, and Ethan is doing something that is not very common. It’s very unique and he’s going to get a lot of attention with a lot of people talking about him, which can bring a lot of fame – and you have to be able to handle that. It’s harder said than done, especially at that age.
He’s just got to keep working hard, because it’s hard work that got him there in the first place, and you can never rest on your laurels. You can never take anything for granted. You have to cherish it, and you have to work your tail off even harder than you did before. Talent can only take you so far, and talent alone is not enough.
Do you think the difference between your situation and Ethan’s is that he is at starting out at a massive club in Arsenal which has such a reputation for breeding talent and blooding them into the team from a young age (like Jack Wilshere for example), whereas you were searching for that club who could really harness your talents?
I think it’s going to be a lot harder for Ethan than it was for me because he’s already playing as such a big club, with so many world-class players at Arsenal, and in the best league in the world. I had my chance with DC United at 14, but the league wasn’t at the same level as the Premier League, so it’s going to be a lot harder for Ethan get consistent playing time. So that is why he’s going to have to absolutely work his tail off to succeed, because he’s already starting at a much harder level than I did.
He will also always have his family by his side versus you being a young lad moving to Europe without your family; do you think that will be a huge difference as well?
It will be incredibly important having his family by his side, just as it was for me. I’ve always loved DC United and they’ve always been my favourite team in the MLS – they were my hometown team and I was incredibly lucky to be drafted there, with all of my family and friends there. But because I had my friends and family around, there was a bit more of a distraction than say if I was drafted out of state. Then I wouldn’t have had so much around me to distract me, and just focus on football. That’s what I did when I was in Florida with the youth national teams when I lived there for 3.5 years, and all I did was go to school, train and play. That’s what got me good enough to be able to go pro at the age of 14.
Man U Trial
I was reading an article from 2003; it claims that Sir Alex Ferguson spoke to your mum ahead of the trial. Is that true?
Yep! I obviously didn’t know much about it, but my mum did speak on the phone with Sir Alex Ferguson. My agent got everything sorted out at the time and whilst it was a trial, it wasn’t a trial for me to get signed right away, because I already had the MLS deal and I wasn’t going to be able to sign right away. It was a trial for them to be able to take a look at me as a player and where I was at, to look at me for the future.
It was obviously an incredible experience for me to have Sir Alex Ferguson reach out to my mum. It was amazing.
How did the trial come about initially – can you tell us the story of where you were, how you found out and what your reaction was?
I was in Maryland with my family at the time and I remember my agent at the time, Richard Motzkin, saying that Manchester United want you to come over. I was sitting there and I can’t lie that whilst I was really ecstatic, I was really nervous. I was thinking ‘Jheez!’ I was going to go to Man U for a couple of weeks and see people like Paul Scholes, the early years of Cristiano Ronaldo, and Wayne Rooney was the man at the time. So I was just sitting there thinking ‘damn, this is awesome!’, but I was also a bit nervous, I’m not gonna lie.
There’s a famous quote from Fergie that reads; “Freddy has done all right. He is a talented boy. He’ll go back to the US and we’ll keep a check on him. When he is 18, we will have to assess what we can do next” – how do you feel looking back on that statement from Fergie?
It meant the world to me to hear that from Sir Alex Ferguson because, in my opinion, he was the best coach in the world. The guy is legendary and he knew talent, so when he sees you and he says that you are very talented, that just validated the amount of talent that I had and gave me a lot of confidence. When I went there I did well, so after being at Man U and being around all those players, I remember performing extremely well because my confidence was at an all-time high. At that time, just being around those players for a few weeks, took my game to another level.
What was the most memorable moment from your Manchester United trial?
One day after a session, I was getting to go back to my place when Cristiano Ronaldo pulled up in his car next to me and was just really, really nice and said ‘Hey man! If you need anything let me know!’ He offered to take me out to dinner, to show me around and just so that I knew I wasn’t alone over there – that blew my mind! I had no idea that Cristiano was such a nice person and I became an instant Ronaldo fan in that moment – he couldn’t have been any nicer. At that point I said that this is the person I want to be, and how I want to carry myself, because other people were looking at me the way I was looking at Cristiano – you just have to be nice to people, no matter what. So that, for me, was an incredible moment.
Did you hang out with Ronaldo after that?
I actually didn’t get a chance to hang out with Cristiano after that, because I was the young kid that was being hosted so wanted to be respectful. I told him that if I’m ever back, that I would hold him to the promise of dinner!
Any other great memories from your time there?
I played foot-golf with Kieran Richardson, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, which was a great moment for me. I think Kieran Richardson won! From my memory Kieran Richardson won and he was pretty damn good at foot-golf!
A trial at Man United is the stuff people can only dream of, but you have lived that as a reality. Can you summarise what a day on trial was like at United? What you would do from start to finish on a given day?
You’d wake up in the morning and go and have your breakfast, then there’s training in the morning. There are certain days where you have two training sessions – you have one in the morning, then you eat lunch and rest for a bit before the afternoon session. But most of the time it was just one training session in the morning. It was a bit different though because when I was there I didn’t know anyone, but luckily I’m not a shy person so I was introducing myself and getting to know people. After the session, we would shower and then have lunch in the cafeteria before everybody would go their separate ways.
Who’s your favourite ‘wonderkid’ across any major European league right now and why?
Right now I would have to say Jude Bellingham. The reason for saying Bellingham is that for someone at the age of 19, the way he plays and the impact he is having, he’s playing like someone with 10 years more experience in the game – and that is very rare to see. And he’s doing it for a big team in Germany. If you look past the slightly older Mbappé and Haaland, you’d have to say Bellingham. He’s a midfielder that makes a massive difference.
He should be linked with the big teams in England, because he deserves to be linked with those teams. I don’t think he’s going to stay at Dortmund for very long. I think someone is going to sign in for big, big money. If he ends up at Man City I’d be delighted as I’m a big Man City fan! I hope he ends up at City!
Was there any other occasion you came close to playing in the UK (beyond the United trial)?
There was a lot going on at the time, and I do know that there were a couple of teams that were interested in the UK, but we didn’t really pursue them because of the whole work permit issue at the time. But the interest was from big teams, Arsenal being one of them. It was around the time when Thierry Henry and all of those guys were there, so it would have been amazing, but it never went anywhere because of the work permit situation.
I know that you still want to give football one more try – you have incredible resilience and a never say die attitude which I think should be highly commended. Is it worth a certain Mr Beckham getting in touch to bring you down to his newly growing franchise in Miami to have a try-out?
I know that wherever I go, they’re probably going to need to see me, because it has been a couple of years since I have really played at a high level. But if the opportunity arises, I’ll definitely attack it. I’ve had a few family things that I’ve been helping on, but now that everything is more settled, I have to get in the best shape of my life and attack it if the opportunity arises. But it’s not something I’ve given up on. I still want to play and I love the sport way too much, and I know that I have a lot more to give – so that’s why I haven’t called it quits yet.