CHESTER, Pa. – After months of negotiations with soccer clubs around the world, the Philadelphia Union finally have a deal to unload high-priced attacker Freddy Adu.
During his weekly press conference Wednesday, Union manager John Hackworth confirmed the report that the team is planning to move Adu to Brazilian club Bahia with Philly netting 33-year-old World Cup veteran Kléberson in return.
Hackworth said the deal is not yet done, and because there were “still hurdles that have to be stepped over,” he couldn’t discuss certain details. But the Union manager sounded confident it would go through “within the next couple of days” and disclosed that it would pretty much be a player-for-player swap.
“It’s a complicated deal,” Hackworth said. “But ultimately we’re going to get Kléberson here, they’re going to get Adu and we’re not going to be able to recover salary cap space in that.”
When the deal is finalized, it would end Adu’s tumultuous second stint in MLS, which began with such great promise when former Union manager Peter Nowak signed him near the end of the 2011 season but ended in flames when the ex-wunderkind fell out of favor with the club following Hackworth’s ascension to the managerial position last June.
Hackworth publicly revealed at the beginning of the preseason that Adu would not be in the team’s plans moving forward. But because of many complications – including Adu’s hefty salary cap hit, the opening and closing of the transfer window, and dealing with different leagues on different continents – it took a long time to find the right suitor, of which there were many.
On top of all that, and “first and foremost,” Hackworth said, the deal had to be an attractive one to Adu.
“From Europe to Asia to Australia to South America to Mexico, there was interest in Freddy Adu,” Hackworth said. “He’s the type of player and has the type of name that I think attracts that interest no matter what. Finding that situation that worked out for both parties has been much more difficult.”
Interestingly enough, Hackworth noted that the team had interest in Kléberson even before they began shopping Adu.
The Union technical staff had hoped to sign an established midfielder in the offseason and spent a lot of that time scouting South America for that player. When Kléberson’s name first came up, Hackworth immediately felt the excitement about the possibility of bringing in a former World Cup star.
“I remember sitting on my couch in 2002, drinking a bunch of cups of coffee to stay awake, and was amazed by his performance in that World Cup,” Hackworth said. “He was a bit of revelation. So the first time that name came across my email, I was like, ‘Wow, you know, this is a great player.’
“Obviously 2002 was a long time ago for all of us. Since then, it’s not like he’s not done anything. He made the 2010 World Cup team for Brazil, which I would argue is a pretty difficult thing to do. So his quality is still there.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.