The biggest coup in the history of MLS has been confirmed by all parties now, as Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley will be joining Toronto FC on permanent transfers. Tottenham Hotspur confirmed the Defoe deal in the early hours on Friday, while AS Roma confirmed the Bradley deal on Thursday— Toronto FC has a press conference scheduled for Monday to presumably announce the signings.
Among American soccer fans there seems to be a sentiment that this move is the absolute worst move possible for Bradley and that ultimately the US Men’s National Team will suffer dearly for it at the 2014 World Cup. While this thought process is valid, it is completely off base.
Especially when you consider that Roma just signed another younger player in Radja Nainggolan who plays in the same role that Bradley would have. Although that transaction is a loan, it still would bump Bradley to fifth on the midfield depth chart behind Daniele De Rossi, Miralem Pjanić and Kevin Strootman. His only playing time would have been for Coppa Italia and in response to injuries or fatigue.
The best way for a player to maintain or grow their skill is to play in games and Bradley was just not doing that for Roma. It is a World Cup year and the heart and soul of the American midfield would have been riding the bench during the prep period for Brazil.
You may say Toronto FC and MLS in general is a step down from Roma and the Serie A. Yes, it is, but it’s not as big of a step as you may think. MLS is not the league that it was when Bradley left back in 2006. MLS now is an established league that is starting to become a destination for talent across the world. On top of that, Toronto made sure to bring in more than just Bradley, bringing in world-class players like Defoe and Gilberto, as well as upgrading their defense with former San Jose Earthquakes back Justin Morrow and adding another midfielder piece in Canadian Dwayne De Rosario.
The last bit of argument I’ve heard around social media is that he still needs to develop his skills and will do so better in the English Premier League or German Bundesliga. That would be a valid argument if he was 22 and still in need of developing. Michael Bradley is 26 years old; he is entering the prime of his career where he will become the teacher for the younger students, like a Jonathan Osorio, Alvaro Rey or Kyle Bekker.
The biggest winner of this deal is the fans of MLS and the National Team, who will now have the chance to see the best player on their team playing in their stadium, while in the prime of his career. Toronto FC’s first game of the season is March 15 at CenturyLink Field for a matchup with Clint Dempsey and the Seattle Sounders FC.