GAMBLING WITH A CAREER
It would be an understatement to say that since his arrival in the Principality of Monaco in the summer, Freddy Adu has struggled to settle into his new club.
Brought in to the group to bolster one of the most impotent attacks in France last year, the young American has failed to score a single goal or register an assist and has only managed nine Ligue 1 appearances this season.
Although he has not made an immediate impact like he did in Benfica during his first few months, Adu has not been given much of a chance to prove his value. Monaco coach Ricardo Gomes has only afforded the American 69 minutes in regular league play thus far in the 2008/2009 campaign and has shown at best a fleeting interest in his abilities.
His appearances have been largely limited to sporadic late game cameos, which have made it difficult for the 19-year old to settle into any kind of a rhythm, to gain confidence on the field, or become accustomed to Ligue 1 play in general.
Aside from a Cup start against PSG back in September, Adu has yet to play more than 22 consecutive minutes in a meaningful game since he landed at the Nice airport.
For a club in desperate need of some flash in the midfield as well as up front, Monaco has been foolish not to give the American more time, and would be down right stupid not to put him on the field - never mind the roster - during the last months of the season.
Aside from Lyon, the French league is notorious for a conservative, defensive style of play. Knowing this, it was going to be a more difficult fit for the Maryland man than the free flowing play on the Iberian Peninsula. Due to his lack of size and admitted defensive liabilities, Adu will never be used in his preferred attacking central midfield role under the current regime, instead played as a wide midfield or striker.
For les Rouge et Blanc, he has never really looked comfortable on the flanks. In part because he has only played for ten minutes at a time and part because the position does not truly lend itself to his abilities - he never found enough of the ball to have any kind of a consistent impact; his movement and creativity restricted.
Out of position and under used out wide, the young man has not been able to prove his potential.
Up front, his luck has not improved. With a wealth of options in the striker position, Monaco has used the young American sparingly. Midseason signing Chu Young Park was a sensation upon his arrival. The hard working, scrappy South Korean had a goal and an assist in his first match at home but more importantly looked a perfect fit for the defensive, tight, and conservative style of play in the Principality.
Further pushing Adu down the depth chart, Alexandre Licata, a borderline reserve player in the summer improbably, embarked upon on a midseason goal-scoring tear to become the club's goal leader virtually within two months of his first appearance. Despite both players' immediate success, their contributions have waned as of late and neither has ever looked irreplaceable.
In addition, Ricardo continues to give chances to an array of equally ineffective young home grown talents up front, who one by one disappoint and fall out favor just in time for another to replace him.
Famous for developing young talents like Thierry Henry, Monaco is committed to the tradition and prestige of their youth program to the detriment of Adu's playing time and in reality, the club's success this season.
Often criticized for his defensive shortcomings and lack of size, Adu was always going to be a departure from business as usual for Ricardo, and as the team struggled and the manager came under fire in the lead up to the winter break, the risk of playing an unproven, 5'6", American became some what understandably less and less appealing.
However, currently, the Red and White sit comfortably in the standings, safe from the threat of relegation and unlikely to instill any kind of hope for a spot for European play next year. In no position to really do anything but ride out the end of the season and regroup, Monaco should not hesitate to see what their young American can do.
If Monaco's new preseident, French-American Jerome de Bontin felt compelled enough to bring the player in and include the option to buy in his contract, one would think at least a single league start would be a worth while investment.
But after following Adu's short career with the club, attempting to track some sort of logical reason for his continued exclusion is difficult. Ricardo's dealings with the young man have been unpredictable and erratic.
He has shown a clear interest in Adu by continually using him as a substitute, but refuses to afford him more than the final meaningless minutes of each contest week in and week out. Reports out of training camp continually heap praise on the young man's performance and attitude with veterans like former AC Milan defender, Dario Simic, confiding their admiration for his talents.
Ricardo himself has nothing but positive feedback and words of encouragement for the player in meetings. And even Claudio Ranieri singled out the American after their friendly against Juventus in January, but still he has barely dressed for a game in 2009.
"What's frustrating is that I have not been given a reason," Adu told me about his talks with the coaching staff. "If I had a reason at least then I could work on that."
"Before it was because I was young, maybe that is still the case. So, I just have to keep working."
His performances when given a chance have been impressive. He has provided a spark of creativity and speed on the attack and looked dangerous around the box with the ball at his feet. Against Juventus, Adu dazzled drawing a penalty kick after beating three Juve defenders on the dribble in the box.
In the end, it is in both the player and the club's interest for him to see some time on the field.
First for Adu, the lack of playing time is hurting his career for both club and country. After the Under-20 World Cup, his market value deservedly sky rocketed as the Americans - in particular Adu put on an inspiring display throughout their run in the tournament. Though the following season with Benfica did not end as well as he may have liked, the young man was able to take away some positives from the experience.
He scored important goals and successfully survived a year in Europe as an 18-year old kid. However, so far Monaco has been a disaster.
Looking like he will never find the field, the Ghanaian born midfielder was not called up for the January friendly against Sweden and more importantly, the World Cup qualifier against Mexico in February. For a player that once attracted the attention of Manchester United and Inter Milan, the current situation does not look so promising.
To compound his troubles, the man behind the deal to bring him to France, Jerome de Bontin resigned on Saturday, thereby relieving much of the pressure on Ricardo to give minutes to the club's American investment.
Second, for Monaco at this point in the season, given their mediocrity as a group and as individuals, making a change and taking a chance on Adu should be a no-brainer - never mind the fact they are wasting one of their four allowed foreign-born signings.
About 12 weeks remain until a decision must be made about his future.
Why he is not on the field never mind the roster is a mystery. It is to the benefit of everyone involved to give the young man a legitimate shot in a league game, something he has been undeservedly denied thus far.