Early success in Europe could have former U.S. men’s national team head coach Bob Bradley on the brink of a prestigious move, if today’s reports out of Norway are correct. The current Stabæk boss and former head coach of the Chicago Fire, New York/New Jersey Metro Stars, Chivas USA and the Egyptian national team is reportedly on the radar of Molde, the defending Norwegian champions whose league struggles and early exit from the UEFA Champions League playoffs left the team in search of a new boss.
According to Norway’s VG Sporten, Bradley has met with representatives of Molde, who hope to quickly fill a coaching vacancy created six weeks ago with the firing of Tor Ole Skullerud. Asked by VG Sporten about the job, Bradley claimed he didn’t know about a possible move, and that although “you don’t know what will happen, because this is football,” his “focus is on what’s going on [with Stabæk].”
Molde, winners of three of the last four Norwegian titles, have fallen to the middle of the Tippeligaen table, but it’s a club that could muster the ambition and resources to allow Bradley to take the next step in his coaching career. But after a season’s worth of struggles, it will also be a club without European soccer next season, something Bradley is on the verge of clinching in his current job.
Bradley’s Stabæk, currently second in the Tippeligaen, are coming off a 1-0 win Sunday over seventh placed Molde. Stabæk, eight points behind first place Rosenborg, maintain slim hopes of claiming is first title since 2008, having shot up the table since rejoining the first division two years ago.
Last season, having hired Bradley upon returning to the top flight, Stabæk finished ninth in the 16-team division. This season, with five games left in the campaign, the Bærum-based club is on the verge of its first European qualification since 2009, when a third place finish earned a spot in Europa League.
That improvement has reportedly put Bradley on Molde’s radar, who won the 2014 Tippeligaen by 11 points. But after losing of a group of key players, including goalkeeper Ørjan Nyland (Inglostadt), and attackers Björn Sigurðarson (Copenhagen) and Daniel Chima (Shanghai Shenxin), Molde has plummeted down the table, leading to the departure of Skullerud one year after winning the league-cup double.
The move to Molde could be a complicated one for Bradley, who is valued by Stabæk management but also has a chance to move to a club with significant recent success. But although Molde climbed to the top of the Tippeligaen under the departed Ole Gunnar Solksjær, the club’s only Norwegian titles have come over the past four years. In addition, Sunday’s defeat eliminated the club from contention for European soccer. Stabæk, on the other hand, looks ready to clinch a spot in next year’s Europa League.
With a record of success both in Major League Soccer and with the U.S. men’s national team, Bradley’s performance at Stabæk could also position him for jobs beyond Norway, and while it’s unlikely rumors of Premier League positions will resurface, Bradley could start taking more meaningful steps up the European ladder. Success next year in Europa League could draw additional attention from clubs in northern Europe.
On the surface, it appears to be a high risk move for little long-term reward, but if Bradley sees his long-term future in Norway, a switch to Molde could be a smart one. In addition to whatever personal financial benefits he sees, Bradley will be moving to a club that was on the brink of a dynasty before its downturn, one that has been able to recently pay six-digits transfer fees, with an occasional seven-digit purchase.
Regardless, the interest is vindication of Bradley’s choice to move to Norway, with his efforts to establish himself seemingly paying off. In two years, he’s taken a recently promoted team to second place. Apparently, the rest of Norway has noticed.
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