By Ives Galarcep
Michael Bradley has defended his decision to leave Serie A side Roma for MLS outfit Toronto, arguing that he is returning a "totally different league" to the one he left eight years ago.
Although the Giallorossi's signing earlier this month intensified competition for places in midfield at the Stadio Olimpico, the highly-rated United States international could still have found another club in Serie A, or elsewhere in Europe, so his decision to move to Canada surprised many.
However, the 26-year-old, who left the Metrostars [now New York Red Bulls] for Heerenveen in 2006, says that while MLS is not on the same level as Italy's top flight, this is the right call for him career-wise.
“This was an opportunity I didn’t want to let pass me by," he told Goal. "If you’d asked me a few years ago if I’d be back in MLS at this moment I probably would have answered no.
"But I think there are certain moments in life when you have to have the ability to forget about everything else and only look at what’s in front of you and then make a decision about what’s best for you, what motivates you, and for me that’s what this is all about.
"As a player, that’s what you want. You want to be somewhere where you are valued, and surrounded by people who are as committed to winning as you are.
“We can talk about how MLS maybe isn’t at the level yet of the top leagues in Europe. Everybody would probably agree that that’s the case.
“There’s still a little bit of work to be done, but MLS is a competitive league. It’s a hard league. It’s demanding. It’s punishing.
"So, this idea that I can walk into the league and do whatever I want and have success, couldn’t be farther from the truth.
"It’s a totally different league now. There are more teams, more fans, more attention, more stadiums.
“I realise that coming back is going to mean doing everything I can to show people watching what I’m all about.
"On one hand, I’m lucky because I feel like I know what to expect, and what this league is about, and on the other hand, I’m in for a lot of pleasant surprises along the way to see exactly how things have grown and improved.”
Bradley, who has become the highest paid American in MLS history after signing a six-year, €30 million contract, also explained that he consulted USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann about his shock decision to go back to MLS during a World Cup year.
“We had a good conversation last week,” he stated. “I wanted him to hear where things stood from me. I wanted to give him the chance to understand what was going on in my head.
“At the end of the day, Jurgen wants guys who aren’t afraid to take risks, who aren’t afraid to put everything on the line. He wants guys who are committed, as players, as people, as leaders.
“Every decision I have ever made in my career has been about trying to challenge myself to become better.
“When I left home when I was 14 years old to go to Bradenton and when I was 18 and went to Europe, these were big decisions but big decisions that were made with me challenging myself and improving. This move is no different.”