U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley's surprising move from Roma to Toronto FC has been confirmed by the Italian club. This move comes less than six months after MLS landed another top American player with Clint Dempsey moving from Tottenham to the Seattle Sounders and like that deal, the offer to Bradley was reportedly just too good to refuse.
Bradley, who is arguably the U.S.'s best player, has only started five matches for Roma this season and with the new addition of midfielder Radja Nainggolan, it seemed unlikely that Bradley would get the boost in playing time he desires in a World Cup year. Though the 26-year-old probably wouldn't have had a chance to move to a bigger club than Roma, who are currently second in Serie A and in position for a Champions League spot, there have been rumors of other interest in Europe. But none of those offers would've come near the financial terms offered by Toronto.
Roma announced the transfer fee paid by MLS was $10 million, which gives Roma a tidy profit on the €3.75 million ($4.6 million) they paid for him in the summer of 2012. According to ESPN's Jeff Carlisle, Bradley, who still had two and a half years left on his Roma deal, is set to make "in the neighborhood of $6.5 million" a year (before taxes) with the club that had the third worst record in MLS last season. That's a major increase on the $1.09 million a year (after taxes) Bradley made with Roma, as reported by Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl. It's also a considerable amount more than Dempsey's base salary of $5 million at Seattle and on par with David Beckham's base salary when he was with the LA Galaxy (which is another deal engineered by current Toronto executive Tim Leiweke).
I don't care what you think of MLS or its quality, there aren't many people who would be able to turn down a chance to increase their salary by six and a half times and move their young family much closer to home (Bradley is from Princeton, NJ). Though many fans of Bradley and the U.S. national team are having a hard time with this decision, as they did with Dempsey's, sometimes playing at the highest possible level just isn't the most important thing to footballers as people and family men. Nor should it be (we covered this in depth with the Dempsey deal).
Like Dempsey, Bradley's decision to return to MLS after seven years in Europe comes after hitting something of a ceiling in his trajectory. Both players expressed a desire to play in the Champions League, but came up short of that goal and were perhaps discouraged by being left on the bench. Of course, Bradley is four years younger than Dempsey and could still return to Europe in the future if he desires.
Toronto are in the midst of making a major investment that they hope will keep Bradley around for a long time, though. The club will also announce the signing of striker Jermain Defoe from Spurs and to hype the announcement, they're using a teaser campaign dubbing it a "bloody big deal!"
MLS has made a point by paying a premium to ensure the U.S.'s three best players are all in the league together. Whether that investment pays off in the form of increased viewership remains to be seen, but the strategy is clear: They want the best American players playing in North America.
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