By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Freddy Adu has been granted permission by D.C. United and MLS to join renowned English club Manchester United for two weeks of offseason training beginning Nov. 18, the first step in what might lead to a permanent move to Europe next year.
"I still don't know the details, but if it happens, it will be exciting," Adu said yesterday.
Adu, 17, is scheduled to join the U.S. under-20 national team in Florida next week, then fly to England to join Manchester United for workouts. Those familiar with the arrangement stressed that it is not a tryout and Adu will return to Washington upon its completion.
"This is something Freddy has wanted to do and we completely support him," United technical director Dave Kasper said of the two-week stay. "It will be a good experience for him."
Sources said the workout was arranged by Adu's representatives at Wasserman Media Group. Dan Segal, who works in the agency's Bethesda office, declined to comment.
Adu, a forward and midfielder, would participate in regular practices and attend some team functions but not play in any official matches.
"We have a good relationship with Manchester United and the opportunity for Freddy to train there made sense for D.C. United, Freddy and the league," MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis said.
It is not uncommon for MLS players to head to England for offseason training -- D.C. goalkeeper Troy Perkins spent time with Bolton and Everton in recent years and midfielder Brian Carroll was with Blackburn last winter -- but Adu is unique because of his age and high profile.
He has been attracting interest from European clubs since he was 12 and has said all along that his dream is to play overseas. Adu, who was born in Ghana and reared in Montgomery County, signed with MLS at age 14.
In three seasons with D.C. United, he has 11 goals and 17 assists in 59 starts. He has also been a regular with U.S. youth national teams and appears on track to play in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid have expressed some degree of interest in him the last two years.
Following D.C. United's season-ending loss to the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference final on Sunday, Adu said serious talks were under way to facilitate a move to Europe. "I'd like to be back, but my ultimate goal was to go overseas, and if it comes sooner rather than later, I'll take it," he said.
Even if Manchester United is impressed with Adu during his two-week stint, several obstacles would stand in the way of an immediate move.
Players younger than 18 cannot be sold internationally, although an exception could be made by FIFA, soccer's world governing body. Adu's 18th birthday is in June.
MLS has Adu under contract for three more years and would have to agree to sell him. His market value is several million dollars. The international transfer window opens only twice a year, for several weeks during the winter and summer, and MLS has been reluctant to sell players while its April-to-November season is in progress.
Even if a deal is reached, Adu would have to apply for a British work permit, which is not easy to obtain. The requirements have undercut attempts by other U.S. players to sign with English clubs.
Then there is the question of whether he is ready to play in England. One realistic scenario is for him to sign with a big club and then be loaned to a lower-division team or sent to a club in another European country.
"It's basically a training opportunity like the ones we've given our players in the past," Kasper said of Adu's program in Manchester. "We hope Freddy benefits from it and comes back an even better player."
United Note: Argentine midfielder Christian Gomez is the leading candidate for the MLS most valuable player award, which will be presented by Commissioner Don Garber at 4:30 p.m. today on ESPNews.
Gomez will be joined at the ceremony in Frisco, Tex., by the other finalists, Real Salt Lake forward Jeff Cunningham and Houston Dynamo midfielder Dwayne De Rosario.