Posted January 13, 2014

Bradley opens up on move to Toronto, talks with Klinsmann, Ballon d’Or & more

Bob Bradley, Cristiano Ronaldo, Franck Ribery, Grant Wahl, Jurgen Klinsmann, Michael Bradley, MLS, Toronto FC, U.S. men's national team, U.S. Soccer
Toronto FC

From left, Tim Leiweke, Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley, Ryan Nelsen and Tim Bezbatchenko: The men at the center of TFC’s offseason surge. (Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today Sports)

At 26, midfielder Michael Bradley may be the most indispensable player on the U.S. national team as it heads toward the World Cup this summer in Brazil. In a surprising move last week, Bradley moved from Italy’s Roma to Toronto FC in a blockbuster $10 million transfer.

On Monday, Bradley was presented in Toronto alongside fellow signing Jermain Defoe in a glitzy press conference that rebooted Toronto after seven years of on-the-field futility. Suddenly TFC is the most intriguing team in MLS. Bradley took a few minutes to talk one-on-one on Monday afternoon:

SI.com: This is a big move for you personally, for MLS and for Toronto. How did the move come together?

Bradley: It really happened very quickly. In the span of about two weeks, I started to get word that Toronto were very interested. When I spoke with Tim Leiweke [the CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns TFC] and [Toronto GM] Tim Bezbatchenko and [coach] Ryan Nelsen, it didn’t take long for me to understand what they’re trying to do here. I can see right away that these guys were motivated and committed to building something different, something special here in Toronto.

They see me as a big part of that. As a player that’s what you want. You want to be in a place where the people match your drive and ambition, and you feel like together you’re in something. The more I thought about it, the more I spoke to everybody, I just felt like this was an opportunity I didn’t want to let pass by.

SI.com: You had the chance to stay in Europe, either with Roma or with other top-flight teams. Why Toronto over those?

Bradley: In speaking with everybody involved with this club, I get that there’s a drive and commitment like no other. For me the chance to be a part in the building of that is something special that motivates me to no end. To come to a club like this and have the challenge of taking a really big role as a player, as a leader off the field, I’m ready for that, and that’s what I wanted.

SI.com: What are your impressions of Tim Leiweke, and what did he say in particular that helped convince you?

Bradley: He’s competitive, motivated, somebody who only thinks about the big picture. He’s someone who’s constantly trying to understand how he can improve, how his teams can improve and what he can do to make it all better. In speaking with him and his ideas, his goals for the club and where I fit into that, it didn’t take me long to understand that this is going to be a special place.

CREDITOR: Michael Bradley’s greatest goals for club and country

SI.com: I know your father, Bob, is a big influence in your career and the decisions you make. When you guys talked about this move, what did he say to you?

Bradley: The idea that now I’m ready at this point in my career to be in a place where now a lot is expected of me. I’m being demanded every day in the way that I play and lead to make a big difference. That’s what motivates me, to come here and try to give everything I have to help build something that’s special and unique. Look, he knows me better than anybody. He knows that’s what I’m all about.

SI.com: You had a chance to speak to U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann about your move. What was that discussion that you had?

Bradley: It was a good discussion. I wanted to call him at the end of last week when things were looking like they were getting finalized, just so he could hear things from me and understand what I was thinking. And look, at the end of the day Jurgen wants guys who aren’t afraid to take risks. He wants guys who are ready to challenge themselves to improve, who put themselves on the line to be better players, better people, better leaders. That’s what I’m doing here in Toronto.

SI.com: Is there any chance you’ll join the U.S. team down in Brazil?

Bradley: Down in Brazil? I don’t think so. We mentioned the idea of potentially when they get back from Brazil maybe meeting them out in L.A. I’m sure that’s something in the next few days we’ll catch up again and figure out exactly what he wants.

SI.com: You’re still a young guy at 26. Do you foresee the potential of someday going back to Europe?

Bradley: Nobody ever knows what life is going to bring for them. At this point in my life I had eight great years in Europe: different countries, different teams, different coaches. I enjoyed every second of it. If you’d asked me a few years ago if I thought I’d be back in MLS at this point, I probably would have said no. But I think everybody owes it to themselves that when certain opportunities come along, now you block out everything else and you decide in that moment what you want, what’s best for you. This is what I wanted. In my life and career I’ve never been afraid to make big decisions. I left home when I was 15. I went to Europe when I was 18, all trying to challenge myself to get better. That’s what I’m doing right now.

SI.com: They just announced the FIFA Ballon d’Or award for world player of the year today, with Cristiano Ronaldo winning. If you had voted, who would your top three votes have been?

Bradley: Ronaldo would have been No. 1. [Bayern Munich's Franck] Ribéry No. 2. And honestly, I put a lot of weight on winning things, so considering Philipp Lahm was the captain of Bayern Munich and they won everything, I’d put him in third.

SI.com: You’ve learned the language everywhere you’ve played, from Holland to Germany to Italy. Are you planning to learn Canadian?

Bradley: (laughs) Me and my family are very excited to become part of the community here in Toronto.

11 comments
Stefania
Stefania

Nice signing for Toronto. Hopefully he can finally bring them and their great fans some success. A central midfielder is not always a sexy signing, but absolutely vital for the team.

Although some of the hype surrounding this is ridiculous. He's important for the USMNT, but let's not forget he became disposable because Roma signed Radja Naingollan. And the reason Bradley was willing to play in MLS was the fact that Toronto pays him more money than any European club would ever be willing.

josebier
josebier

"are you planning on learning Canadian?" 

Is this interviewer absolutely retarder?

Where can I learn American? 


DerekOsley
DerekOsley

Bradley's an excellent player, but give me a break.  Please explain how "challenging yourself" and "being a better player" means moving from big clubs in Europe to, uh, Toronto FC.  Michael and Grant: at least admit it's about the money!

MarcoBastian
MarcoBastian

Toronto fans need to keep their feet on the ground, not get too euphoric. Many major stars coming into MLS for first or even second time do not do well right away. The long flights, hard surfaces, and hard tackles from behind have dampened the enthusiasm of many who've gone before.They also have brought in a noted super ego who is never happy not being top dog in DeRo. Nelson will need to be a magician, and Toronto fans will need to be patient again, at least for one more year.

Jesus Hitler
Jesus Hitler

Nice non-interview.  Are you sure you were talking to Michael Bradley, and not the Toronto PR rep?  What a wasted opportunity.

DerekOsley
DerekOsley

@Jesus HitlerAgree.  Dishonest garbage here, obviously.  Bradley wants to "challenge himself" and "be a better player"?  LOL by cashing in big at a bottom MLS team?

BenjaminHopper
BenjaminHopper

@Jesus Hitler What did you want him to say exactly? This is the best interview with Bradley I've read since the move.


Maybe smoke a joint and lighten up.

Jesus Hitler
Jesus Hitler

@BenjaminHopper You must have very low standards.  If not, I'll have what you're smoking.  Regardless, now that we've read this, tell me: why would a player in the prime of career, who has spoken repeatedly in the past about playing and achieving at the highest possible level, want to move to a currently and historically awful team in Canada, when he is currently playing for the second placed team in Serie A?


The answer, apparently is that he talked to the management and he is really excited and committed to the project, and not afraid to take risks.


Is that a good answer for you?  While Bradley likely would have given evasive answers or spouted more boilerplate, it would have been nice to see some follow-up about the financial motivation, or the concerns about his playing time at Roma.  And what about this comment of  "I put a lot of weight on winning things".  Obviously.  Exactly what have you won?  How does joining the crappiest team in MLS connect to this?


Meh whatever.  He's still really good.  Just a terrible interview.


spikevicious
spikevicious

@Jesus Hitler @BenjaminHopper 

Here's what I got out of the "interview"/company soft pitch:  He saw the handwriting on the wall at Roma with decreased to zero playing time in the run up to the WC, had his version of a tantrum and took the money and ran so he can be the man, a big fish in a small pond.

Whether or not they win is a different matter, but they won't be in the basement anymore, and TFC and DCU will make a lot of noise in the Eastern Conference this season.  SKC notwithstanding, the West still owns MLS (SKC is west of the Mississippi and will be in the Western Conference soon enough, 2015).