Where Michael Bradley’s transfer ranks among all-time MLS signings

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There will never be another David Beckham, in so many different ways. So it will always and forever be difficult to displace the man, truly a global soccer icon for almost two decades now, as Major League Soccer’s most significant and influential signing.

No one transcends soccer and pop culture like “Becks.”

But don’t let that diminish the value of Michael Bradley’s arrival in Toronto. This looks like the third biggest signing over 19 years in MLS.

Clint Dempsey’s arrival into MLS last August was huge for the league symbolically, although in different ways than Beckham’s glamorous and ballyhooed entrance.

Bradley’s arrival falls just a little south of Dempsey’s – but not far underneath it.

It’s big for the league for all the reason’s Dempsey’s was: here is a player from one of Europe’s money leagues (Italy’s Serie A), handing back his card-carrying status as an American who had made an imprint in one of the world’s wow-wow associations. It says so much about MLS as a destination for players still at their career peak, still in their prime earning years.

No, Bradley has not a consistent starter for Roma this year. But if you look at his body of work over two seasons with the current Serie A second place side, it’s impossible to deny that it’s been anything but a success in Italy. So his desire to play in Major League Soccer – making the full circle, back to where the 19-year-old version launched a professional career for the New York MetroStars – says great things about the league.

(MORE: Michael Bradley’s Italian-based agent says deal to MLS now complete)

Dempsey’s return to MLS was a real watershed, although it could possibly have been viewed as something of a one-off fluke. Bradley’s return takes “one-off fluke” off the table.

And make no mistake, Bradley is every bit the talent that Dempsey is. More, in fact.

Dempsey occupies the sexier position, a goal scorer, whereas Bradley is midfield passer and organizer extraordinaire. But in terms of overall talent Bradley stands above. I have said for two years that no player (no, not Dempsey and not goalkeeper Tim Howard) is more important to the United States national team. Bradley is the team’s midfield brain, and Jurgen Klinsmann’s team performs sluggish, with a distinct wheeze, without him.

He’ll do great for Toronto. He’s already done great things for the league as, probably, the third most significant signing in 19 years.