Manchester United Flop Freddy Adu & The Other Forgotten Heroes Of Football Manager

They called him "The New Pele", but after a two-week trial at Manchester United and his ninth club in ten years, Freddy Adu looks to never fulfil his Football Manager promise. Here's an ode to him and other Football Manager wonderkids who never made it...
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Manchester United Flop Freddy Adu & The Other Forgotten Heroes Of Football Manager

Anyone who has ever played a Football Manager or Championship Manager game will hold fond memories of nurturing a promising young player all the way from the youth team to world domination. However, while the game is usually very good at highlighting young players to look out for in real life in years to come, it does occasionally go amiss.

Before developers Sports Interactive split with Eidos and teamed up with Sega in 2004, the likes of Tonton Zola Moukoko and Cherno Samba became household names, despite never making it at the top level.

With the latest edition of this hugely-successful game franchise out this week, Sky Bet take a look at some of the other players who couldn't quite transform their in-game potential into on-pitch heroics.

Freddy Adu

Freddy Adu burst onto the scene in 2004 aged just 14, and he was immediately installed as the must-buy wonderkid in Football Manger 2005. Due to his age, you could pick Adu up for nothing, let him sit in your youth team, and by the age of 17 he would be knocking on the door of your starting XI, where he would stay for the next couple of decades.

Although he was still highlighted as one of the brightest young talents in the series' next few instalments, Adu's allure soon began to wane.

In real life, Adu was given a lucrative sponsorship from Nike in his mid-teens, and after spending two weeks training with Manchester United, seemed destined for a move from DC United to bigger, better things. In 2007, Adu moved to Benfica, but made only 11 appearances over a four-year stint. This included loans at Monaco, Belenenses, Aris and Caykur Rizespor, with 32 appearances made in total across the four loans.

Aged 24, Adu is now playing in Brazil for Bahia, as he looks to get his career back on track.

Anthony Vanden Borre

Anthony Vanden Borre was the versatile, must-buy player of many Football Manager games. He was a natural at right-back who was also more than capable of putting in a performance at centre-half or in a holding midfield role for any of the world's biggest clubs, and he only cost a couple of million to boot. He came through the same Anderlecht youth setup as one Vincent Kompany, although it is fair to say the friends have had pretty different career trajectories since then.

While Kompany moved to Hamburg before being picked up by Manchester City and becoming one of the most coveted defenders in world football, it is fair to say Vanden Borre's career has stalled somewhat. After being described by Belgian legend Paul Van Himst as the biggest talent he had ever seen in his career, a lot was expected of Vanden Borre. After leaving his boyhood club for Fiorentina however, things didn't quite go to plan. He only made two appearances for the Viola before moving on to Genoa. From there, a loan spell in England with relegated Portsmouth followed, before Vanden Borre arrived back at his first club Anderlecht this summer, looking to turn his career back around.


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Nicolás Millán

After the Adu storm had died down, the next young, tricky attacker to be the first signing any self-respecting Football Manager player would sign was Nicolás Millán. Aged only 14 when Football Manager 2007 was released, Millán had already been dubbed the new Cristiano Ronaldo in real life, and his potential ability in the game more than lived up to that.

The little Chilean would usually achieve full marks for finishing, dribbling and crossing before he turned 15, meaning for minimal outlay he could be the star of most top teams before his 18th birthday.

Although he is now only 21 in real life, it appears that Millán's career path hasn't quite worked out as envisaged. After leaving his first club Colo Colo having been there for six years, Millán joined Unión Temuco in the Chilean Primera B, before again moving on to rivals Curicó Unido.

As he is still so young, and grown five inches since his initial Football Manager fame, there is still hope for Millán yet, so fingers crossed he rediscovers the talent that got everyone so excited six years ago.

Eddie Johnson

The other unmissable bargain of the 2007 version of the game was undoubtedly Eddie Johnson. Starting out at FC Dallas, the virtual Johnson was seemingly desperate for his chance to make it in England, and any Championship club willing to part with around £800k would be rewarded with a striker who could fire most teams to promotion then keep them there once they were in the top flight.

Although he did not hold the greatest technical or mental attributes, Johnson boasted incredible physical stats, making him a handful for any defence.

Aged 22 when the game was released, Johnson was held up as the next big American player, and duly got his move to the Premier League with Fulham in 2008. Although he had been a regular scorer with the aforementioned FC Dallas and his second club Kansas City Wizards, this didn't translate to England's top flight. After a few months at the Cottagers, Johnson was loaned to Cardiff in the Championship, where he could not repeat his on-screen exploits in that same division, scoring only two goals.

By 2012, Fulham offloaded Johnson back to the MLS with the Seattle Sounders, where he is in the best scoring form of his entire career, averaging a goal every other game.


On Football Manager 2008, it was the turn of another diminutive South American to be the name on everyone's fingertips. Lulinha is a slight, pacey Brazilian attacking midfielder, and had the potential to become one of the best players in the game. He could be picked up for just £500k from Corinthians if you acted fast at the start of the game.

Around the time of the game's release, Lulinha was also the rising star of Brazil's youth teams, scoring 15 goals in ten games for the under-17 side during 2007 and 2008, leading many to tout him as this great nation's next big export.

After being linked with many of Europe's elite, Lulinha struggled to make an impact on the first team at Corinthians, and after a series of loans, has now moved permanently to Ceara Sporting Club in Brazil's Serie B. Unfortunately at the moment, it would seem that Lulinha is the latest in a long line of young Brazilian attacking midfielders to promise a lot at a young age, but not quite meet their potential.

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