Toronto FC today announced two significant signings, spending a reported combined total of $19 million for Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley. In MLS, where the league has built its foundations on parity and stringent spending, this is a very big deal for the league and the Canadian club team.
Both Defoe and Bradley reportedly turned down offers from clubs in the Premier League and Serie A to come to MLS. In Defoe’s case, this is a player who is putting his England World Cup squad place on the line.
Bradley, on the other hand, had found himself in an extremely unfortunate position. Ranking fourth choice centre midfielder at AS Roma, who have arguably one of the most formidable central defensive partnerships in Europe (De Rossi and Strootman), the possibilities for playing time during the remainder of the season seemed improbable. However, Bradley will be fondly remembered in Italy. In the 2012/13 season, Bradley started 26 games and earned the nickname ‘The General.’ He built a good rapport with the Roma fans, but injury hampered his progress at the start of the 2013/14 season, which allowed Kevin Strootman to make a smooth transition into the Roma midfield, forcing Bradley to become an outsider.
This was further compounded by the recent arrival of on-loan signing Belgian Radja Nainggollan.
Bradley had opportunities to discuss moves to Fulham, Sunderland, Hellas Verona and Bologna, which were hardly inspiring. So when he was approached by Toronto, he jumped at the opportunity.
For Defoe and Bradley, there were three key reasons why the players decided to make the move to Toronto FC and MLS:
1. Money. This was always going to be one of the crucial deciding factors to encourage two European-based players with established pedigree to join MLS. Jermain Defoe will earn an annual salary of $8.3 million while Bradley will earn $7.1 million. Defoe will see his weekly salary increase from £67million/week at Tottenham to £90,000/week at Toronto FC. Michael Bradley, meanwhile, will make more money in MLS than he was at AS Roma.
2. Lifestyle. Defoe and Bradley both referred to how family played a big decision in their moves to Canada. Bradley has only recently become a new father and is helping raise a young family. Moving closer to home, to a city that is culturally very similar to many American cities, must have been a critical factor in Bradley’s decision to return.
Defoe is another who places a heavy emphasis on family life. After a devastating summer in 2012 when he lost a cousin and his father, he spoke of how family has become even more important to him with his changed perspective on life. When explaining his decision to move to Toronto, he always spoke of how it was a great opportunity not just for him but his family too. He also spoke of the need for change. Toronto looks to be the perfect change for Defoe in this stage of his career.
3. Ambition. Tim Leiweke of MLSE is clear that he wants to build a MLS “Super Club,” which is what Seattle Sounders are trying to do on the opposite coast of North America. However, after Toronto’s extremely trying 2013 season, with a record of 6-17-11, the ownership at TFC have taken huge steps to greatly upgrade the roster while keeping a promising young core of players, including Jonathan Osorio, Joe Bendik and Matias Laba.
This offseason, Leiweke has acquired Dwayne de Rosario, veteran/versatile winger Jackson as well as the physically imposing striker Gilberto from Brasileiro Serie A side Internacional who netted 14 times in 24 appearances on loan at Portuguesa last season. The squad looks very strong and Leiweke has promised the overhaul has not stopped yet.
Under Leiweke, Toronto is building a team with considerable fire-power and high level of experience. With the team assembled, plenty of ambition and more players expected to come, Toronto look to be turning themselves into serious MLS Cup contenders before even kicking a ball. No matter where Toronto end up this season, Bradley and Defoe will be an integral and exciting part of the club’s 2014 season.