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Report: Bradley to Toronto done, set to earn $6.5 million per season after $7-$10 million transfer fee

Jan 8, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

AS Roma v Calcio Catania  - Serie A Getty Images

Within a matter of hours, Michael Bradley’s switch to Toronto FC has gone from Twitter sensation to verified move, with sources confirming to ESPN that the 26-year-old midfielder is on his way back to Major League Soccer. For a fee of between $7 and $10 million, the Reds are set to acquire the 82-time U.S. international from Italy’s AS Roma, with Bradley set to earn near-$6.5 million per season at BMO Field.

As with anything that hasn’t been officially announced, the exact numbers are still blurry. Reports have Bradley’s contract in Toronto as either a five- or six-year deal. While one source is telling ESPN that Roma will get $7 million to allow Bradley to return to MLS, league sources are saying Roma will get “in excess of $10 million” for a player they bought from Chievo in the summer of 2012.

[MORE: Michael Bradley-to-Toronto: Take a moment to suspend your whys, consider how far MLS has come]

Bradley’s reported salary would be a huge step up from the wages he garnered at Roma. Paid €800,000 after tax in Italy (roughly $1.1 million), the former Metro Stars midfielder would be making between five- and six-times more money to shift back to Major League Soccer. While they’ll certainly be questions about the motives of a 26-year-old midfielder swapping Serie A for Toronto FC, the pure financial motivation makes it difficult to argue with Bradley’s move.

One lingering question with the deal is who will pay the transfer fee, though if the Clint Dempsey example is any indication, Major League Soccer may have again broken out the checkbook. While it was initially assumed the Seattle Sounders had paid the price of Dempsey’s summer acquisition from Tottenham, reporting by Sports Illustrated later revealed the league had paid the former Spur’s transfer fee. As the 2013 season progressed, it was revealed other teams had benefitted from new policies allowing the league to pay part or all of certain players’ transfer fees.

One remaining snag for Toronto is their Designated Player situation. With the acquisition of Jermain Defoe, Toronto have used up their allotment of DP slots, with the former Spurs striker joining Matias Laba and Gilberto on the Reds’ books. Laba, an Argentine midfielder brought in under Kevin Payne, appears to be the on his way out, with Toronto looking for a  home for the 22-year-old former Argentinos Juniors midfielder. If he can’t be traded, Laba’s contract will have to be renegotiated (or, its salary cap hit paid down by allocation money) to make room for Bradley.

source: AP

Tim Leiweke, seen here at the announcement of the NBA’s 2015 All-Star Game in Toronto, has taken two steps toward reversing the exodus out of BMO Field. (Source: AP.)

It’s an unfortunate externality of the Bradley transaction, but with the former Heerenveen, Borussia Moenchengladbach, and Aston Villa midfielder returning to Major League Soccer for the first time since 2005, it’s a small price to play to add a marquee name. Bradley not only becomes a focal point in midfield for Ryan Nelsen’s team, but he also represents a huge acquisition for Tim Leiweke – the Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment chief executive who is overseeing the revitalization of TFC.

Today, Leiweke’s taken two huge steps toward replicating the star power he accumulated in Los Angeles, where he served a similar, architect’s role. With the Galaxy, Leiweke was crucial to the acquisitions of David Beckham and Robbie Keane, and while Bradley and Defoe may not carry the same star power, their signings represent an instant credibility boost to a team that’s never made the playoffs.

[MORE: Defoe to Toronto FC official… and maybe Michael Bradley, too? (or “How Taylor Twellman broke Twitter”)]

That lack of success has translated into only 17 wins in the last three years, something that’s led to a major hit at BMO’s turnstiles. A team that regularly sold out their park over its first five years has seen a near-10 percent drop in attendance over the last two, with average crowds at Toronto games hitting an all-time low of 18,131 last season.

The acquisitions of Bradley and Defoe give Leiweke ammunition to reverse that trend. Not only has he given Toronto the type of talents they’ve never had in the franchise’s five-year history, but he’s also given supporters reason to halt the exodus from BMO Field.

  1. rphillish - Jan 8, 2014 at 7:08 PM

    Well played Tim Leiweke.
    Amazing move for MLS. For Bradley it’s questionable, but great for MLS.

  2. mdac1012 - Jan 8, 2014 at 7:26 PM

    Defoe needed someone in the midfield to give him service and Bradley looks to be that guy. I think with the WC coming, a lot of guys may be making decisions that they would otherwise be making. Bradley wants playing time, going to MLS is really the only place that will absolutely guarantee him playing time on a regular basis. Every game he plays in, he is going to be one of the 2 or 3 best players on the pitch.

    Toronto FC got a hell of a lot better in the last 24 hours!

    • hildezero - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:15 AM

      Yeah. Them and United have improved a lot since the end of last season. It’s gonna be interesting to watch both.

  3. mkbryant3 - Jan 8, 2014 at 7:26 PM

    Bring on MLS 2014! Then Brazil. Wow. What a time to be a fan.

  4. seanb20124 - Jan 8, 2014 at 7:41 PM

    Waste of money, Bradley won’t sell enough tix to justify his salary.

    Only Adu and Beckham have ever put butts in seats

    • mdac1012 - Jan 8, 2014 at 8:24 PM

      Bradley himself might not sell tickets but winning will. Bradley is a very good player and in MLS he will be great. Combining him with Defoe and Gilberto, TFC have as good a DP core as anyone in the league.

    • midtec2005 - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:12 AM

      Every American soccer fan knows and Loves MB. Not only that, but Toronto has a knowledgable and strong fan base. They will be very excited.

      • hildezero - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:19 AM

        I’m sure Toronto fans will embrace Bradley. They’re not like Vancouver fans that are anti-American in sports.

    • egb234 - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:31 AM

      I disagree. I have never been to an MLS game and I will do my best to see Bradley when he comes to LA. He is a very good player, and the most important player on the USMNT. Also, he is in his prime.

      • mikeevergreen - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:52 PM

        TFC just became SOB. And SOBs WIN. Look for some TFC games to be played at the Dome just so they can sell tickets.

  5. noahbird - Jan 8, 2014 at 7:43 PM

    The MLS has more than a million on hand? Is it TV deals? Sure as heck ain’t attendance flow.

    • talgrath - Jan 8, 2014 at 7:53 PM

      You mean the league that is third in attendance in the US after the NFL (of course) and MLB?

    • danielofthedale - Jan 8, 2014 at 7:55 PM

      MLS is one the top ten attendance leagues in the world and draws as much, if not more, than the NBA and NHL.

      • midtec2005 - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:14 AM

        MLS average attendance is higher than the NBA, NHL, and MLB. But the NBA and MLB do have more games (and I don’t know how many games the NHL has).

    • egb234 - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:42 AM

      Whoa, everyone. The initial comment is obviously way off base and likely pure trolling, but the responses are pretty off-base. MLS attendance is consistently increasing at a healthy rate, which is the most important factor. The MLS trails MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL in total attendance, but it is improving attendance per game and is showing real life in major US cities (see Seattle’s huge boom).

      Average attendance higher than the MLB? Not even close. Top ten attendance leagues in the world? Nope. Third in attendance? Depends on the number, but total attendance is way lower.

      But that doesn’t mean MLS isn’t heading in the right direction.

      • gunner1095 - Jan 9, 2014 at 10:58 AM

        Man, you guys are all off. MLS had the thrid highest average per game attendance among american sports.

        1. NFL – 64K
        2. MLB – 30K
        3. MLS – 18K
        4. NHL – 17K
        5. NBA – 17K

        Also, MLS has the 8th highest attendance in the world.

      • mdac1012 - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:01 AM

        There is total attendance and then there is attendance per game. Since not every league around the world necessarily plays the same amount of games, generally, average attendance per game is used. In 2012, MLS had the 8th largest average attendance per game of any football (soccer) league in the world.

        The average attendance in MLS in 2013 was slightly down from that, but only by a very small amount. I would think that when the numbers are in at the end of the 2013-14 season, MLS will slot right in around 8th, worldwide again.

  6. talgrath - Jan 8, 2014 at 7:56 PM

    Bradley just increased his salary by over 600%, smart financial move on his part. I know we all want to see Bradley succeed at Roma, but it appears they were looking elsewhere for talent in his position and no place else would give Bradley that sort of cash. Has Toronto quietly become an eastern powerhouse over the off season? I guess we’ll have to see.

    • midtec2005 - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:15 AM

      Maybe they went looking elsewhere because this was in the works? who knows…

    • hildezero - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:23 AM

      I’d like to think that Toronto FC have now become an Eastern Conference powerhouse, but it’s hard to take them seriously when they actually have never made the playoffs. XD But I do think they will go to the playoffs now for sure.

  7. jpan007 - Jan 8, 2014 at 7:59 PM

    holy sh1t
    Hope TFC has a great season

  8. lostintransocean - Jan 8, 2014 at 8:05 PM

    I’m assuming this means DeRo is also dropping down from a DP level salary a la Shalrie when Dempsey came to SSFC.

  9. jimmycrackcorn99 - Jan 8, 2014 at 8:52 PM

    OK, I for one am majorly shocked at this. Did NOT see it coming by any stretch. For me the question at hand is why was he making such a low salary (comparatively) in Italy? I did a quick Google search and found this on SB Nation

    Indeed, he is on the “low” side of the Roma payroll, and with this move he has improved his financial status considerably. Can’t say I blame him.

  10. brittkamp - Jan 8, 2014 at 9:26 PM

    Does this mean Bradley will now be able to join the January Camp?

    • hildezero - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:26 AM

      Yeah, I think so. Because the January camp is held in USA and Bradley just signed with a club in a league that’s in US.

  11. egb234 - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:04 AM

    I understand I might be in the minority on this site, but I am sincerely and respectfully disappointed by this move. MLS Soccer is no where near the tops six or seven european leagues in terms of quality on the pitch and depth on the bench. It’s fun that the MLS is growing in popularity and improving in quality, but right now the best USMNT players should be competing at the highest levels of the sport in order to improve themselves and break down barriers for their countrymen.

    Obviously the move makes sense financially (small note because I can’t help myself: Canada’s tax rate is higher than the US, so he’ll lose a big chunk to taxes), but that usually dosesn’t help on the pitch. Look at Samuel Eto’o and others who have gone to Russia or China to get rich but seen their performance slide.

    I was disappointed Donovan didn’t pursue a short loan and Dempsey came back a few years early, but this is really a bummer. I would have loved to see Bradley at WHL playing in the Europa League and maybe (likely not) pushing for a top four spot in the BPL.

    • reedineagan - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:36 AM

      I have very mixed feelings. Sure, you could look at it the way you did and be disappointed, but the optimist in me sees as a good thing. Assuming these TFC deals go through, MLS has gained Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Defoe, and Micheal Bradley in the last year. These moves could send a message to the world, and be the very beginning of a massive increase in popularity and quality in the MLS. Of course this is all hypothetical optimism, but its not unreasonable.

      • egb234 - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:21 AM

        I can definitely see your point. If you are looking at this as an MLS fan, it is really exciting. Add the talks about Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole and others coming over next year and it starts to feel like this could be the beginning of a boom for the league. I am admittedly not a huge MLS fan. I follow the BPL religiously and keep an eye on other leagues (including MLS), but my true love is the USMNT. Maybe this is better for US Soccer in a lot of ways, but it’s just not what I was expecting/hoping for.

        FWIW, I don’t think my post is “right” or convincing as an argument for a position. I think a lot of fans have good reason to be happy about this. I am just bummed because I thought we were on the brink of having successful American figures in the BPL, something I have wanted for a long time.

    • mikebilla - Jan 9, 2014 at 10:02 AM

      Bradley wasn’t playing consistently with Roma. He only started in one or two games all season, and came off the bench in 4-5 games. I believe he only scored one goal (a great goal though!) and has often been third or fourth choice for midfield after Pjanic, Strootman and DeRossi.

      His ankle injury at the beginning of the season didn’t help either. He missed the first 8 games of the season, which incidentally were all won by Roma. The Roma coach was reluctant to insert a newly returned, not-quite-fit player into a team that was running like a well oiled machine.

      He’ll definitely play more consistently in Toronto, and it’ll be good practice for the big tournament this summer (what’s it called again?). Besides, he can always do like Dempsey and go on loan in Europe during the winter break. I’m sure Roma would take him in for a few months. Those Romans love General Bradley.

      • mikebilla - Jan 9, 2014 at 10:14 AM

        And of course, Roma just purchased Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan, who is already being hailed as a fixture in the midfield….another reason for Bradley to leave.

    • poryorick - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      I don’t think the taxes are an issue. Italy has a 43% rate for his bracket.

  12. midtec2005 - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:18 AM

    Holy crap!! There will be people that disagree with what I’m about to say, but I think MLS just got a new “best player in the league.”

    MB is an excellent player in his prime. This is wonderful for the league as a whole and especially TFC. He will make their whole team much better. We have a lot of our WC team in MLS now. If we have a good showing in Brazil it’s going to look really good for MLS

    • hildezero - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:30 AM

      I just up voted your comment for the second paragraph and down voted your comment for the first paragraph. :)

      • midtec2005 - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:18 PM

        I voted yours up because it made me laugh, haha.

  13. mikeevergreen - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    The Eastern Conference just got nasty. Sporting KC, enjoy that title. You may be playing in the 4/5 game this coming season. Chicago Fire may have to inquire to ManU about Chicarito just to have a chance to make the playoffs, Mike Magee or not.

  14. mikeevergreen - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    This move was absolutely necessary for Bradley at this time. JK wants his people to be in 90-minute game form, and while Bradley was getting some minutes (regular 70th min sub) with Roma, he wasn’t starting.

  15. ojom4130 - Jan 9, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    Great and deserved compensation for MB, but any move to a team in MLS or Scotland is a downer.

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