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Should Michael Bradley go back to Europe?

22 July 2015: Michael Bradley (USA). The United States Men's National Team played the Jamaica Men's National Team at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia in a 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal match. Jamaica won the game 2-1.
(Icon Sportswire)

It’s only October, but the January transfer rumors have already started for Michael Bradley.

Currently enjoying his third season with Toronto FC, the USMNT captain is solely focused on winning an MLS Cup, but it appears suitors from around the globe are interested in his services come January. According to a report from Sports Illustrated, Bradley has interest from both AC Milan and Bologna about bringing the American star back over to Italy. Bradley has 76 caps for Italian clubs, as he played for both Chievo and Roma over the course of his career.

However, the question on the minds of many USMNT fans is, should Bradley return to Europe?

Selfishly, the gut reaction answer is no, if only because Americans want to see their captain on display every week in their domestic league. MLS is far more widely broadcasted than Serie A is in the U.S., and the opportunity to see Toronto during one of their many away games across the country should be intriguing to USMNT.

Additionally, as a designated player for TFC, Bradley’s starting position is never in doubt. He is penciled in as a midfielder for Toronto when he is healthy, and does not have to fight for a spot in the starting eleven. While there’s an argument that such a solid positional place takes the hunger out of a player, Bradley hasn’t shown any lack of desire since coming to MLS. For certain players that may be true, but it appears for Bradley, it is not.

Despite his place with TFC, there is one place where Bradley has stalled: his technical development. Currently, he is on a team where, other than perhaps Sebastian Giovinco, Bradley is unquestionably considered a top player. Thus, he has seemingly stalled in his growth since coming to MLS, simply because there is not enough talent around the league to truly push him.

Even in a declining Serie A, Bradley would get the opportunity to play with much higher quality players on a weekly basis. Additionally, he would face stiffer competition, and constantly have to fight for his place in the starting lineup, which would make him a better player.

However, there is certainly an argument that at 29 years old, Bradley is what he is, and the time for him to grow and develop in Europe has passed. Additionally, he appears to be impervious to Jurgen Klinsmann’s rating of European squad players above MLS designated players, making his spot in the USMNT irrelevant to his decision to pursue club soccer elsewhere.

Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle in all of this is that Bob Bradley, Michael’s dad, took the manager job at Swansea City last week. Bob has made it clear that he will look to buy some Americans during the transfer window, which has opened up the rumor mill for speculation that he is buying his own son. Should Michael get the opportunity to play for his dad again in the Premier League, he should undoubtedly take a shot at playing in the best league in the world.

In fact, despite his age, it makes sense for Bradley to go to Europe, regardless of how the remainder of his season goes with TFC. He has become an American icon, but could also use his second stint in Europe as the rejuvenating factor for the twilight of his national team career.

Playing in big, European games will undoubtedly help Bradley cope with the decision-making speed required of him with the national team, making a January move to Europe an intriguing possibility. While it’s fun to have the American captain in MLS, it’s even more fun winning national team games, and some time in Europe could help Bradley improve the USMNT’s chances in that department.

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