The expected transfer saga involving Michael Bradley never took off this summer.
Bradley, who holds the keys to the United States national team's midfield, possibly for the next decade, was the subject of speculation for months as he was linked with more than a dozen different clubs before parting company with Dutch team SC Heerenveen this week, a day before the European transfer window slammed shut.
Instead of a big switch to a team in England or Spain, he completed a move to Borussia Moenchengladbach, a newly promoted side in the German Bundesliga. Bradley will be less accessible to television viewers in the U.S. than if he had gone to Everton, Middlesbrough, Celtic or Monaco, but the final decision could benefit his game.
Much of the 21-year-old's development has happened out of the spotlight. The limited amount of Moenchengladbach's games that will be available for viewing means that situation will continue.
Even so, the Bundesliga deserves its place among the top four leagues in Europe, though it can not compete with England, Spain or Italy in finances or overall depth of quality clubs.
The level of play in Germany is outstanding and there is an opportunity for Bradley to add extra dimensions and consistency to his play. Much will hinge upon the environment he finds himself in, and whether the club coaching staff is prepared to help and be patient with him.
One consistent complaint of the German system is a perceived unwillingness at some clubs to provide foreign youngsters the same level of assistance as afforded to homegrown players. Landon Donovan struggled to adapt there, both personally and professionally, during ill-fated stints with Bayer Leverkusen.
For the investment it has made of $4.3 million, Moenchengladbach has a right to expect something close to the finished product. And if they are smart, the club's power brokers will realize that with a little bit of guidance, experience and confidence, they could have a valuable commodity on their hands.
Moenchengladbach seems to have done its homework.
"Michael's an accomplished passer of the ball and an excellent linkup player who also does a lot of running off the ball," head coach Jos Luhukay said. "He is also a threat with shots from outside the penalty area."
It appears Luhukay appreciates that Bradley is not a natural attacking midfielder. That's an odd thing to say about someone who scored 15 times from midfield last season. Long-term, though, Bradley will be better suited to a holding and distributive role.
His goal scoring seduced the English and Scottish suitors and a transfer to Britain may have seen him cast in an inappropriate role.
Also, Moenchengladbach was fortunate. On the occasions when he could have grabbed extra attention, things did not work out so well for Bradley. Like the rest of the U.S. team, he played poorly in a miserable performance against England at Wembley Stadium.
He performed solidly in the USA's first two games at last month's Olympic tournament, but he was suspended (due to yellow cards) for the defeat to Nigeria that ended the team's campaign.
If Bradley can have a similar impact in Germany as he did in Holland, then it will only be a matter of time before the big European clubs start circling. By then, he may truly be ready for the big time.
- Michael Bradley
- Borussia Moenchengladbach