ESPN FC: Better home or away?
Bob Bradley, the former U.S. men's coach who fell short last month in his bid as Egypt's coach to qualify the Pharoahs for the World Cup, confirmed Wednesday he is in talks to coach Norwegian premier league club Stabaek.
"Of the different discussions that are going on right now, the one with Staebek is the furthest along," Bradley said of Staebek, in Norway’s top division, the Tippeligaen. "The discussions I have had with them have been positive."
Bradley spoke via phone to ESPN from the Rome home of son Michael, currently starring in midfield in AS Roma’s unbeaten Serie A season. He said he was tempted by an offer to return to Major League Soccer with Vancouver Whitecaps, but would not be diverted from his European ambitions.
"I had very good discussions with the people at Vancouver," he said. "I have great respect for their vision, energy and what that organization is trying to do, but at the end I just said that for me right now I felt strongly that I need to make the next step in Europe and I continue to feel strongly about that."
Stabaek recently sacked its head coach, Petter Belsvik. Norway, one of Europe's less prominent leagues, may not seem befitting for a coach of Bradley’s achievements, but his determination to succeed there is clear.
"I feel strongly that working in that situation with my experience and, with what they want to do, we can find our way to making a team successful," he said. "I am excited about those conversations, but nothing's final yet and in the meantime, there are other discussions are going on. It's a time when you have to see how other things play out."
Bradley said he was in the Italian capital with his wife, Lindsay, to tie up loose ends after what he said was a "great experience" in Egypt.
"I say that of course with the disappointment and sadness of just falling short to get into the World Cup," he added. "But the response of the players, the way the people welcomed Lindsay and I for everything that we did during this period was unbelievable."
Egypt lost out on a World Cup spot to Ghana, which was drawn in Group G for next year's World Cup -- along with the United States, Germany and Portugal.
He said that USA had the toughest group along with Group A and England's group, and that he hopes they can play well.
"The aim of any team is to get out of the group and then the tournament can open up for you," he said.
Bradley said Ghana is Africa’s best side. After Egypt suffered a 6-1 first leg humiliation in their playoff, he said he felt a modicum of pride was restored by signing off with a 2-1 win in Cairo. He added that Egypt suffered by not being seeded for a draw set on the lines of FIFA rankings as they had been prevented from playing friendlies by the troubles in their home country.
"If you go through a period and you don't have any matches then your FIFA ranking goes down and that of course impacted Egypt," he said. "There was also no additional consideration for the fact that in the group stages we were the only team to win all six matches. Certainly that was disappointing."
During Bradley’s time in charge, Egyptian players began to establish themselves on the European scene.
Winger Mohamed Salah has starred for Swiss side FC Basel, and is now on the January shopping list of many major clubs, while defender Ahmed Hegazy won a move to Fiorentina who have impressed in the Italian Serie A this season.
Bradley is optimistic about new opportunities.
"Shortly after I got fired by the U.S., the Egypt opportunity came along," he said. "This was once in a lifetime but it's important to continue in the direction I set out on, which is to be in Europe, to be in a club situation. I understand that to get your foot into the door, it can be difficult. I've had my name put in at different times along the way.
"I am confident in my ability, I feel strongly that I have built good teams, I have coached big players and played a role in developing young players. In everything that I have done, I have always enjoyed the idea that you need new challenges. This is something that my wife and I have always impressed on our children."