ESPN FC: Behind the Blockbuster move
Speaking to Radio Radio in Italy, Michael Bradley's agent, Alberto Faccini, said on Thursday that the United States international's transfer from Roma to Major League Soccer side Toronto is complete.
"Michael made this choice, and Toronto, in just two days, have closed the deal," the agent said. "There is a very important project for him at Toronto, who made an investment that is one of the most expensive in recent years."
The news marks the second major transfer of a U.S. international into the MLS in a six-month period, with Clint Dempsey joining the Seattle Sounders last August.
"For Michael this was a tough step to take, but the choice was dictated by some market movements," Faccini said. "Without waiting for Jan. 31, he chose to follow this path also to help the growth of [North] American soccer."
The 26-year-old American felt increasingly squeezed out at Roma by a squad that has grown in the current transfer window, Faccini said.
Bradley has struggled to break into the starting lineup with Roma this season, appearing in 11 of their 18 league games, with just five of them as a starter. With the Serie A side recently acquiring Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan on loan from Cagliari with an option to buy, Bradley was looking at being the fifth option in manager Rudi Garcia’s three-man midfield.
"The arrival of [Radja] Nainggolan at Roma has also contributed to Bradley's choice," the agent explained. "At Roma he never felt like an important player for the team."
Sources told ESPNFC that Bradley had been looking for an exit even before Nainggolan’s arrival, with his lack of playing time in a World Cup year his primary concern.
"There were many offers, also from Serie A, by clubs like Verona and Bologna, but Michael chose to return [to the MLS] after 10 years in Europe," Faccini said. "It was a bitter choice, but made with the heart.
"Roma wanted him to stay, to leave for Toronto was his choice."
MLS clubs were notified around the start of the year that Bradley was available and clubs were instructed to let the league know if they were interested. Given their financial muscle, and with new Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke eager to turn around the struggling club’s fortunes, Toronto quickly moved to the front of the line.
Sources have confirmed that the proposed financial commitment Toronto are making is considerable. The MLS is poised to sign Bradley to a contract in the five-to-six-year range at an annual salary in the region of 6.5 million dollars. There was conflicting data in terms of the transfer fee, with one overseas source indicating that Roma expect to receive seven million dollars and.
Much like Dempsey, Bradley likely found it impossible to turn down such a lucrative offer. But the move still comes as a surprise given his professed desire to play in the Champions League, something Roma are in a prime position to accomplish given that they currently sit second in Serie A, eight points behind leaders Juventus.
The move almost certainly will not sit well with U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who has long encouraged his players to test themselves at the highest level possible. The MLS, despite its increasing profile, does not provide the same level of play as the top European leagues, and it seems likely that Bradley could have secured a loan move to another European club. Instead, he has opted for the security -- both in terms of playing time and finances -- of the MLS.
The MLS can now claim to have the top three U.S. players -- Bradley, Dempsey, and Landon Donovan -- all playing in North America.
ESPNFC's Jeff Carlisle contributed to this report.