Freddy Adu: I was better than Ángel Di María at Benfica, but...

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Freddy Adu #11 of the Philadelphia Union crouches on the turf after losing to the Seattle Sounders 1-0 at CenturyLink Field on May 5, 2012 in Seattle, Washington
Photo: Otto Greule Jr/GETTY IMAGES

Former wonderkid Freddy Adu claims he was once a better player than Ángel Di María during their time at Portuguese club Benfica.

Adu was supposed to be the Kobe Bryant or LeBron James of his sport - signed by Nike at 13, played Major League Soccer at 14 and appeared for the United States national team at 16.

Once dubbed "the next Pelé", the Ghana-born forward made his first foray into Europe with Benfica back in 2007 in a £1 million deal from Real Salt Lake.

However, he failed to live up to the expectations and was sent on four different loans at AS Monaco, Belenenses, Aris Thessaloniki and Çaykur Rizespor before Benfica cut their losses on the attacker and accepted an offer from Philadelphia Union in 2011.

During his time as a vagabond in Portugal, Greece and Turkey, Adu never made more than 13 appearances in a single season and left the continent with just seven goals to his name.

The 31-year-old has since played for clubs in Brazil, Serbia and Finland, with his latest venture coming in Sweden with lower-tier side Österlen FF.

Looking back on a turbulent career which has ultimately seen him fail to live up to his early promise, Adu believes his departure from Benfica is where the point where things started to go wrong.

Speaking to The Blue Wire Podcast, the Football Manager legend said:

The biggest mistake I made in my career was leaving Benfica on loan to Monaco.

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.

Di María 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 Paris Saint-Germain.

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