The news came as little surprise Sunday; Michael Bradley, easily the top man among the current U.S. central midfield mix, completed his $4.5 million transfer to Roma. Here’s what the move means:
A great place to be
Bradley now finds himself in a great spot. Roma isn’t one of the big Italian hoagies, but it’s not far. Call it a good sized Italian beef sandwich. The last five years Roma has finished 7th, 6th, 2nd, 6th and 2nd. That’s damn solid Serie A work.
Roma performs at the Stadio Olimpico, Italy’s second largest venue with a capacity of 72,000, second Italian fiddle only the fabled San Siro. So it’s an ambitious club, not blessed with the history or resources of AC Milan, Juventus, etc., but hardly miles behind.
In the sweet spot, career-wise
Having signed a four-year deal, the 24-year-old is in a great spot, career-wise. He’ll be 27 going into the next important transfer window in 2015 (with a year left on his deal, a.k.a. the sell-off zone). If the U.S. midfielder keeps developing and does his part to assist the Giallorossi cause (no reason to believe he won’t), Bradley’s next move would be to a true European heavyweight. Consider that Clint Dempsey got himself into a similar position – but at age 29. Two years younger would look even more attractive.
Impact on the U.S. national team scene
Bradley excelled in 2011-12 Serie A matters at smaller Chievo, and his body of work with the U.S. national team is Exhibit A of his steady improvement. A year ago Bradley was a solid international caliber midfielder and a steady contributor to the U.S. program (and finally, mercifully, shutting up the last holdouts among the know-nothing nepotism set, who claimed his U.S. spot was all about his father being the coach).
In the year since, Bradley has kicked it all up a notch. A big notch. He’s an essential wheel in the U.S. midfield machine, versatile enough to hold any role, capable in some, a difference-maker and game-breaker in others. He’s the team’s best passer, a steady scorer out of midfield, a highly professional leader and probably the most important U.S. man this side of Tim Howard and perhaps Clint Dempsey.
Point is, his move to Roma will only enhance the product in a U.S. shirt. Being surrounded by better players at Roma should allow Bradley to add further polish and a layer of steely sophistication that he might not have reached in Verona. Plus, Roma may not be AC or Inter in terms of European accomplishment, but it’s no stranger to Champions League play. He’s got a chance to learn on (and potentially shine on) a bigger European element – and that’s yet another level of development now within reach.
I hope to have a little more later today on Bradley’s transfer price, and what it means to another U.S. international who would like to be on the move.