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What's next for U.S. star Bradley?
After last summer’s World Cup, Michael Bradley finished as one of the top performers for the U.S. national team and a player who, then at 22, seemed destined for a transfer move away from German side Borussia Moenchengladbach.
No summer transfer materialized, but six months later, with his club sitting in last place in the German Bundesliga, Bradley looks ready to make the fourth move of his young career.
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After two and a half years as a regular starter for Moenchengladbach, Bradley has been on the bench for the team’s past two matches, and now reports have surfaced quoting the club’s manager as revealing that the team is open to selling the 23-year-old American.
That sale looks even more likely after Moenchengladbach completed the loan acquisition of German midfielder Michael Fink from Besiktas on Thursday. Fink is seen as a natural replacement for Bradley, who now looks destined for a move.
So where could Bradley wind up? A potential move to Sunderland seems unlikely now that Sunderland is on the verge of signing Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari from Inter Milan. Reports have identified Turkish side Galatasaray and Italian club Palermo as two two teams ready to bid for Bradley.
The issue at this point is the price tag. Moenchengladbach is reportedly seeking $6.8 million for Bradley, considerably more than the $4 million reportedly offered by Galatasaray and Palermo have offered.
How did Bradley come to this point when he was one of the few bright spots on a Moenchengladbach side enduring a forgettable season? The party line from Moenchengladbach is that manager Michael Frontzeck has gone with a new system since the winter break, one which calls for a more defensive-minded defensive midfielder than Bradley is.
Whether it’s a legitimate explanation or not doesn’t matter at this point. What is clear is that Fink’s arrival means Bradley’s days are numbered and it’s hard to imagine him willing to waste a half season waiting for the summer transfer window. He has to move, either via transfer or loan.
There is no shortage of interest, but Moenchengladbach’s price tag might keep teams away during the winter transfer period, especially considering the fact Bradley will be down to one year left on his current Moenchengladbach deal come the summer. That means interested clubs could likely sign Bradley at a fraction of the current price, and Bradley would have more teams to choose from.
Can Bradley really afford to sit on the bench the rest of the season?
He’s too much of a competitor to accept that and he also has to know that doing so could jeopardize his place with the national team, where the competition for spots in central midfield is getting tougher and tougher. With Jermaine Jones now in the picture, Stuart Holden blossoming at Bolton and Maurice Edu doing well at Rangers, Bradley’s long-standing hold on a starting spot could be threatened if he spends the next four months on the bench.
So what’s next for Bradley? He may be forced to settle for a short-term loan for the remainder of the season, which would hopefully mean some steady playing time before he goes on the market this summer. While there is interest from Italy and Turkey, Bradley looks destined to go to England, where fellow Americans Clint Dempsey and Holden are thriving, and where Jones is now plying his trade at Ewood Park.
A short-term loan would also help Bradley keep his form heading into the summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup. Even with all the competition on the national team in central midfield, Bradley remains a vital part of the United States squad, so having him glued to the Moenchengladbach bench for four months would hurt the Americans’ chances of taking back the regional championship from Mexico.
We saw just how good Bradley can be at the 2010 World Cup, and as unsettling as his current situation is in Germany, he has already shown enough in his career an ability to adjust and thrive in new surroundings. The transfer so many expected for Bradley last summer still might come, just later than expected, and under circumstances few could have seen coming.
Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the U.S. national team and Major League Soccer.