TORONTO – Whether Michael Bradley’s signing with Toronto FC is the biggest acquisition in Major League Soccer’s 18-year history, one thing is for sure: It's certainly the first time a world-class American and linchpin of the US national team has chosen to ply his trade in Canada.
And while Bradley’s signing has been acknowledged as possibly the greatest signing in TFC’s history, the reaction throughout North American soccer has run the gamut from pure elation to utter confusion at an American player in the prime of his career leaving a European club in a top league to return to MLS – north of the border.
At his official unveiling on Monday, the 26-year-old he was quick to indicate that sporting reasons were his prime motivation for selecting Canada as the place where the next stage of his career will evolve.
“I came here because I want to be part of this club,” Bradley told MLSsoccer.com. “When I spoke to everybody involved here, I started to understand what they are working to build here and the determination they have to make it all happen. As a player, you want to be involved in something like that. I have always made decisions in my career based on the football and what is best in that aspect. I made this decision with that same thing in mind.”
“People ask me, ‘Are you excited to be closer to home?’” Bradley added. “I am, but for me the main thing is the opportunity to come to this club.”
Asked specifically about consternation among national team supporters who are aghast at the fact that the 81-time capped midfielder left an AS Roma club currently in the hunt for a Serie A title for a Canadian MLS club that has struggled mightily in all of their seven years of existence, Bradley spoke of the parallels with another big-name player who left a top club for one that had historically been a perennial also-ran.
“Life doesn’t always go according to a script,” Bradley said. “For me, when this opportunity came, it was a chance to be a part of the building of something special. I was thinking about it on the plane yesterday – when a guy like Yaya Touré leaves Barcelona to go to [Manchester] City, I’m sure there’s a lot of people who are thinking to themselves, ‘What is he doing? He’s leaving the best team of all-time to go to Man. City,’ who at that time hadn’t won anything in so long.”
Bradley referred to Touré talking about being a part of “shaping something” and “the building of a winning club.”
“For me, that’s what this is about,” Bradley said. “That is something that motivates me an incredible amount – to try to bring to Toronto a team that is different than anything else in Major League Soccer.”
No matter if USMNT supporters eventually learn to love the sight of Bradley as a key midfielder for Toronto FC, US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann is apparently one of those who is not particularly disturbed by Bradley’s move from the highest echelon in Europe back to MLS.
“I spoke with Jurgen at the end of last week,” Bradley said. “We had a good discussion. He and I have always had a good, open and honest relationship. When things were getting towards the end, I wanted him to hear it from me in terms of what I was thinking and where things were headed.
"Jurgen wants guys in situations where they are challenging themselves as players and as leaders and as people, so for me that is what this is all about.”