According to all reports, Michael Bradley is about to come Major League Soccer’s most well-paid man. So we may as well begin the initial probing of the inevitable question: whether he’s worth the money?
The very short answer: the guy will be worth every penny.
It’s not just that Bradley instantly becomes one of the top passers and one of the most intelligent of midfield leaders in MLS, he represents something else that is almost as important.
Good organizations build systems of accountability from the inside out. It’s a big part of the reason Houston has done so well over the years, even with smaller-budget talent: the locker room is always right, and the day-to-day accountability polices itself.
Teams like Toronto FC, a perennial MLS struggler, don’t have that – but a guy like Bradley is a great place to start. He’s the ultimate professional, which is why he’ll soon be Jurgen Klinsmann’s captain. (No offense to Clint Dempsey, but Bradley is already this national team group’s de facto captain.)
Bradley will demand excellence at the training ground and on game day, and that’s a sure bonus on the big bag of talent and midfield smart that he’ll be toting into BMO Field.
On other matters …
I asked this question on Twitter: “Remember when it was so cool to bash Landon Donovan because he wanted to play in MLS rather than Europe?”
Donovan took more than his share of flak for that. History may well reverse that sentiment, offering up Donovan as one of the pioneers, someone willing to stay in MLS to help build the league rather than jumping across the Atlantic for greater glory. Either way: Clint Dempsey took some of the same abuse, although much less of it. Bradley is likely to take even less, even though he’s just 26. This tide will continue to turn — and the soccer snobs who still like to hammer MLS because it isn’t the Premier League or Serie A or whatever will continue to fade into the background.
Donovan, by the way, is clearly on board. What Donovan told reporters gathered Thursday in Southern California, where the national team is holding its annual January camp:
I think that it’s a testament to our league that people want to come back and play here particularly six months before a World Cup. It makes a strong statement, obviously, [Tim Leiweke] made it clear to him that it was something that he wanted, and Mike is a smart guy, I’m sure that he’s thought about this a lot and it’s something that he wants to do so I think that it is great.”