Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
When Michael Bradley stepped on the stage at Real Sports Bar and Grill in Toronto, it was confirmation that his $10 million transfer to Toronto FC was complete.
The 26-year-old U.S. Men’s National Team starter was introduced to media and fans on Monday morning alongside fellow Designated Player signing Jermain Defoe at a press conference set up by TFC. The news follows TFC’s DP signing of Brazilian forward Gilberto.
“To be part of this project in this city, to help bring a winning team you can all be proud of, I’ve never been more excited or more motivated in my entire career,” Bradley said at the press conference.
In addition to the Bradley signing, TFC have agreed to a long-term partnership with AS Roma, with the Italian club playing two friendlies at BMO Field in the next six years and a “player development program” for TFC players to train in Rome.
“To acquire a star midfielder like Michael Bradley, seen by many as the top American player in the world, alongside a premier striker in Jermain Defoe, makes this a groundbreaking day for Toronto FC and for Major League Soccer,” Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke said in a club statement. “We have worked hard this off-season to deliver a winning team to our fans and I would like to thank AS Roma and MLSE ownership for their commitment and support. This is an exciting day for Toronto FC fans and we can’t wait to start the season.”
Bradley’s move to TFC ends an eight-year stay in Europe, where he played in the Netherlands, England, Germany, and Italy. Bradley transferred from the MetroStars to Dutch club Herenveen at the end of the 2005 calendar year, staying in Holland until 2008. From there, the USMNT midfielder went to Borussia Mönchengladbach, where he spent three years, including a half-season loan to Aston Villa in the English Premier League.
In 2011, Bradley moved to Chievo in Serie A and following a strong season, AS Roma bought the son of Bob Bradley to their club. This past season under new head coach Rudi Garcia, Bradley had found himself in an even tougher competition for a place in the first team, with five central midfielders all fighting for three places in Garcia’s 4-3-3 formation.
Meanwhile, Defoe’s move to TFC is not only the first time that he’s playing for a club outside of England, but only the third time ever that he’ll play for a club outside of London. After moving from Charlton to the West Ham United youth academy, the England National Team forward spent three and a half seasons there before moving to Tottenham in 2004, staying there for eight years in total. Defoe spent a calendar year with Portsmouth in 2008 before returning to Tottenham.