Recently, U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann expressed his concern about the lack of Americans in the Champions League, and stated that he believes one reason for that void is a lack of self belief among American players. One player who disagreed with that sentiment is Michael Bradley, who on Monday laid out his own theory why American players struggle to receive opportunities at the highest levels of club soccer.
“There’s no doubt that, as Americans, we continue to have to fight for respect and we have to continue to show that we have players who can play at the highest level,” Bradley said. “You would have hoped that now what’s gone on, whether it’s in Major League Soccer or the national team or with certain individuals over the past 10, 15, 20 years would have done more for us, but the reality is that at the moment there’s still a little bit of a feeling that if you can have an American or an Argentine, they’re taking an Argentine.
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When asked specifically if he thought there was anything to the notion that American players lacked self belief, Bradley simply shook his head in disagreement, and said "No."
Klinsmann’s recent comments raised some eyebrows when he questioned whether American players have the belief in their own abilities required to succeed across the pond.
“It needs to take the U.S. team, in a World Cup to go into at least a quarterfinal, if not a semifinal, to give more credibility to American players," Klinsmann said in a TV interview with ESPN. "But it’s also the American players, when they go to Europe, to prove it, that they become big players in Europe. So it's also down to, do they have the belief? They have the qualities, but do they have the belief?
“Because you go into a European top club and if you want to play in a top five, six team in England or in Germany or in Italy, you have 15, 16, 17 national team players on the roster. So you have to kick somebody out. I think the American player still doesn’t have this last belief that they can kick somebody out. This is something that they have to build.”
The comments could have been seen as a subtle dig at top American players such as Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, who left Europe and teams on the verge of competing in the UEFA Champions League to return to MLS. Bradley didn’t touch on that possibility, but his comments made it clear that he believes American players face unique challenges in Europe.