Report: Bradley to Toronto done, set to earn $6.5 million per season after $7-$10 million transfer fee

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Within a matter of hours, Michael Bradley’s switch to Toronto FC has gone from Twitter sensation to verified move, with sources confirming to ESPN that the 26-year-old midfielder is on his way back to Major League Soccer. For a fee of between $7 and $10 million, the Reds are set to acquire the 82-time U.S. international from Italy’s AS Roma, with Bradley set to earn near-$6.5 million per season at BMO Field.

As with anything that hasn’t been officially announced, the exact numbers are still blurry. Reports have Bradley’s contract in Toronto as either a five- or six-year deal. While one source is telling ESPN that Roma will get $7 million to allow Bradley to return to MLS, league sources are saying Roma will get “in excess of $10 million” for a player they bought from Chievo in the summer of 2012.

[MORE: Michael Bradley-to-Toronto: Take a moment to suspend your whys, consider how far MLS has come]

Bradley’s reported salary would be a huge step up from the wages he garnered at Roma. Paid €800,000 after tax in Italy (roughly $1.1 million), the former Metro Stars midfielder would be making between five- and six-times more money to shift back to Major League Soccer. While they’ll certainly be questions about the motives of a 26-year-old midfielder swapping Serie A for Toronto FC, the pure financial motivation makes it difficult to argue with Bradley’s move.

One lingering question with the deal is who will pay the transfer fee, though if the Clint Dempsey example is any indication, Major League Soccer may have again broken out the checkbook. While it was initially assumed the Seattle Sounders had paid the price of Dempsey’s summer acquisition from Tottenham, reporting by Sports Illustrated later revealed the league had paid the former Spur’s transfer fee. As the 2013 season progressed, it was revealed other teams had benefitted from new policies allowing the league to pay part or all of certain players’ transfer fees.

One remaining snag for Toronto is their Designated Player situation. With the acquisition of Jermain Defoe, Toronto have used up their allotment of DP slots, with the former Spurs striker joining Matias Laba and Gilberto on the Reds’ books. Laba, an Argentine midfielder brought in under Kevin Payne, appears to be the on his way out, with Toronto looking for a  home for the 22-year-old former Argentinos Juniors midfielder. If he can’t be traded, Laba’s contract will have to be renegotiated (or, its salary cap hit paid down by allocation money) to make room for Bradley.

source: AP
Tim Leiweke, seen here at the announcement of the NBA’s 2015 All-Star Game in Toronto, has taken two steps toward reversing the exodus out of BMO Field. (Source: AP.)

It’s an unfortunate externality of the Bradley transaction, but with the former Heerenveen, Borussia Moenchengladbach, and Aston Villa midfielder returning to Major League Soccer for the first time since 2005, it’s a small price to play to add a marquee name. Bradley not only becomes a focal point in midfield for Ryan Nelsen’s team, but he also represents a huge acquisition for Tim Leiweke – the Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment chief executive who is overseeing the revitalization of TFC.

Today, Leiweke’s taken two huge steps toward replicating the star power he accumulated in Los Angeles, where he served a similar, architect’s role. With the Galaxy, Leiweke was crucial to the acquisitions of David Beckham and Robbie Keane, and while Bradley and Defoe may not carry the same star power, their signings represent an instant credibility boost to a team that’s never made the playoffs.

[MORE: Defoe to Toronto FC official… and maybe Michael Bradley, too? (or “How Taylor Twellman broke Twitter”)]

That lack of success has translated into only 17 wins in the last three years, something that’s led to a major hit at BMO’s turnstiles. A team that regularly sold out their park over its first five years has seen a near-10 percent drop in attendance over the last two, with average crowds at Toronto games hitting an all-time low of 18,131 last season.

The acquisitions of Bradley and Defoe give Leiweke ammunition to reverse that trend. Not only has he given Toronto the type of talents they’ve never had in the franchise’s five-year history, but he’s also given supporters reason to halt the exodus from BMO Field.

Mourinho: Mkhitaryan “disappeared” during games, got dropped

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It would appear that Henrikh Mkhitaryan has become the new Luke Shaw, who not so long ago became the new Juan Mata, who had become the new Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Pepe, who all previously become the new Kaka and Mesut Ozil — players previously perceived to be undroppable, only to fall out of favor and be dropped from Mourinho’s side.

[ MORE: Carrick back in training after operation to fix irregular heartbeat ]

Similarly to many of the aforementioned stars of Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid sides of the not-so-distant past, Mourinho recently singled out Mkhitaryan for not working hard enough for the team and failing to meet expectations with his performances.

Mkhitaryan last featured in Man United’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea on Nov. 5, prior to the most recent international break. He played just 62 minutes, to follow an UEFA Champions League appearance of just 45 minutes against Benfica. Mkhitaryan was then absent from the substitute’s bench for a victory over Newcastle United and a defeat to Basel.

[ MORE: Pochettino sees Sanchez as one of world’s best defenders already ]

In Mourinho’s mind, Mkhitaryan hasn’t merited a place in the team — quotes from the Guardian:

“I was not happy with his last performances. I’m not speaking about one or two, I’m speaking about three, four or five. He started the season very well and after that, step by step, he was disappearing. His performance levels in terms of goalscoring and assists, pressing, recovering the ball high up the pitch, bringing the team with him as a no. 10, were decreasing.

“That was enough [to drop him] because the others worked to have a chance. Everybody works to have a chance. It’s as simple as that.”

“I don’t know if Mkhitaryan will start but, for sure, he will be back in the group. For him to be back to the group, it means that somebody is going to leave the group.”

Davinson delights Pochettino, who predicts “massive” strides

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It’s still very early days for Davinson Sanchez as a Tottenham Hotspur player, but the early returns are extremely positive as the Colombian center back has featured in 14 of the club’s 17 games in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League this season.

[ MORE: Spurs beat Dortmund again to win group with Real Madrid ]

What’s more encouraging than Sanchez’s initial performances? The 21-year-old’s “massive” room for improvement and the expectation he’ll one day soon be one of the world’s best defenders, according to manager Mauricio Pochettino.

After signing for Spurs in August, Sanchez went straight into Pochettino’s starting lineup, slotted in between stalwarts Toby Aldeweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who together last season led the defense with the PL’s best record (26 goals conceded in 38 games), as part of a back-three. Sanchez has taken to Tottenham like a duck to water, in Pochettino’s estimation — quotes from ESPN FC:

“You saw against against Dortmund how many times he was with [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang one-versus-one. How many central defenders can play one-versus-one and escape and go, be tight and press? If you run, I run because I am so confident when running. I think not many center backs in the world can do this.

“Or against Swansea against Tammy Abraham: how many times he was one vs. one and the ball was behind him, he was on the halfway line and running was not a problem? And against Cristiano Ronaldo, too?”

“We expect more from him, but I am so happy with him. He is doing well, very well. He’s only 21 years old, but he shows more maturity [than that], and he’s so aggressive when he’s marking, his concentration [is good] and then with the ball he’s good, but I think he can improve.

“There is massive scope to improve potentially, it’s massive for him. In only a few months, he’s showing he’s doing a fantastic job for us. [He can improve in] every single aspect, tactic, physical condition, technique.

“We need with him one and a half months or two months preseason every day, and then I’m sure he’s going to show a different level. I think he’s one of the best today, but has potential to improve a lot more.

“Because he’s so clever, and he’s very humble, and he’s very open to learn, he’s a player when you tell something his reaction is to be open, and be critical with himself, and that is a massive skill from a player, when he’s so open to improve, and then the conditions he has are amazing to be one of the best center halves in the world.”

To state the completely obvious, Pochettino was wise to utilize Aldeweireld and Vertonghen as training wheels for Sanchez, if you will, upon his arrival. His athleticism and pace make him 1) the ideal complement to a pair of players who read the game so well; and, 2) perfectly positioned to operate as the last-man, emergency defender on the rare occasion either Belgian is breached.

[ MORE: Liverpool host Chelsea in massive top-four clash ]

For the first time all season, Sanchez started out wide in Alderweireld’s absence (hamstring) against Arsenal last weekend, and for the first time since his arrival, he appeared a flawed — which is to say, human — defender. To his credit, Sanchez gave a quality account of himself on the whole, and finished the game much stronger than he’d started.

No one was more aware of this than Pochettino, though, as he slid Eric Dier into Aldeweireld’s spot for Tuesday’s Champions League triumph over Borusia Dortmund, again deploying Sanchez in the middle. With Aldeweireld expected to miss a couple more weeks at minimum, the Tottenham teamsheet should routinely read Vertonghen-Sanchez-Dier from left to right until he returns.

Lille appoint four interim managers to replace Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) A four-man coaching team will take provisional charge of French soccer club Lille in the wake of Marcelo Bielsa’s dismissal.

Lille says Fernando Da Cruz, Joao Sacramento, Benoit Delaval and Franck Mantaux will be in charge of the team until further notice.

Lille announced earlier this week that Bielsa had been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club” following a 3-0 loss at Amiens.

The northern side is in 19th place and next travels Saturday to Montpellier, which has the best defense in the league.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but failed to make the club competitive. After finishing a disappointing 11th last season, Lille hired the coach – affectionately known as El Loco Bielsa (Crazy Bielsa) – with the aim of returning to the Champions League.

Irregular heartbeat the cause of Carrick’s recent absence

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Manchester United captain Michael Carrick hasn’t played for his club since Sept. 20, a confounding period of more than two months now, and the reason for the 36-year-old midfielder’s absence has finally come to light: an irregular heartbeat.

[ MORE: Mourinho slams critics (again), gives injury updates ]

The condition, which Carrick announced himself on Friday, was first detected after Man United’s League Cup victory over Burton Albion. He has since undergone a cardiac ablation, a procedure to scar or destroy tissue in your heart that’s allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Carrick was named the new United captain this summer following the departure of Wayne Rooney. As told in the above statement, he is working toward full fitness and once again being available for selection in Jose Mourinho’s side.

Hooray for modern technology and medicine, which allow otherwise baffling medical conditions to be diagnosed, treated and recovered from in a matter of weeks or months.