Whatever the name, Michael Bradley has adapted to both the highly technical Italian game and his new country. Having joined Chievo Verona in August to become the only American in Serie A, the 24-year-old midfielder has become a regular starter and already speaks Italian.
“When this is your livelihood, your profession, you give everything you have for it and you put everything you have into it,” Bradley explained during an interview last weekend with The Associated Press. “There’s no doubt that when you’re in a new country with a new club it’s important to be able to integrate yourself as quickly as possible _ that’s part of the deal.”
A son of former U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley, Michael has cut a distinctive figure in Italy with his shaved head, his New Jersey roots and a nickname likening him to Omar Bradley, the famed World War II general. He’s only the fourth American-born player to join a Serie A club in recent years, following Alexi Lalas, Giuseppe Rossi and Oguchi Onyewu.
Lalas played for Padova from 1994-96 after starring for the U.S. team at the 1994 World Cup. Rossi, born in New Jersey to Italian parents, played on loan with Parma in 2007. Onyewu had a brief injury-plagued stint with AC Milan in 2009-10, making only one competitive appearance.
Bradley was kept on the bench during his first match with Chievo, but has started every game since.
“We didn’t expect him to adapt so well and so quickly,” said Chievo’s front office member Fabio Moro, who played for the club for 11 seasons. “It’s rare for a foreign player to become a starter and do so well in their first season in Italy, but he’s showed all his worth and we’ve been very impressed _ he’s improving game by game and become a key member of the squad.”
“He already speaks very well, which has also been a surprise,” Moro said. “So beyond showing that he’s a great player, he’s showed that he’s also an intelligent person.”
Michael turned pro at 16 when he joined the New York-New Jersey MetroStars and training with the U.S. national team ahead of the 2006 World Cup. He got his first taste of European soccer with Dutch club Heerenveen from 2006-08 and then scored 10 goals in 76 league games for Moenchengladbach in Germany.
However, midway through last season Bradley wasn’t interested in extending his contract with Moenchengladbach and was loaned to Aston Villa in the English Premier League.
When Alex McLeish was appointed Villa manager at the end of last season, Bradley again found himself looking for a new club. At the same time, new U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann chose not to call Bradley up for two exhibition while he was sorting out his club status.
So for a short span, Bradley had no club and had temporarily lost his spot on the national team _ having been a regular starter under his father.
“That’s life. That’s football,” Bradley said. “When you’re a professional you know that this is the nature of things. You know that if you lose a few games in a row there’s going to be pressure, there could be a new coach, there could be new players. And that’s the same whether it’s a club team or national team.
“When you come to a new club you try as quickly as possible to earn the respect of your teammates, to earn the respect of the coaches, to earn the respect of the people in the club with the way that you train, play, handle yourself, so that’s the challenge,” Bradley added. “Flip to the national team, it’s the same thing. A new coach comes in and you want to show him that you’re a guy who can be counted on in big games.”