Serie A: On Michael Bradley At Chievo Verona

Eric Giardini on Michael Bradley’s southbound move

Six years later, Bradley will try to break into Serie A, not MLS...

Six years later, Bradley attempts to break into Serie A, not MLS...

“It’s fine.”

That was my initial reaction to reading that Michael Bradley was joining Chievo Verona in Italy in an undisclosed move that was announced today. (The deal is rumored to be for two years).

Not the place I was predicting when hearing that Bradley was angling for a move to England with, preferably, the chance to play on those European nights that everyone dreams of. Instead, what he got is neither and I’m left scratching my head.

Bradley has his cake and can eat some too. Chievo, owned by the Paluani Cake Co.

The move makes a great deal of sense for the Chievo. For the relatively low price of 2m Euros, they get a young, internationally-experienced midfielder that can slot in almost immediately and play loads of minutes – especially with midfield stalwart Kévin Constant and his 32 appearances last season moving on to Genoa.

In Bradley, Chievo also gets a player that won’t necessarily need a long time to fit into their style of play. Chievo, under manager Domenico Di Carlo, tend to line up in a 4-4-2 formation with a midfield diamond. With the departures of Constant and Gelson Fernandes (to Leicester City) there are minutes that need to be filled and Bradley can do that either from the defense midfield position or the trequarista – a role similar to the one he played during his time in Holland.

I see it more being the former because he doesn’t fit the role as used in Italy (think Totti, del Piero, etc. someone who can create on their own) and it has been so long since he’s played it consistently that he’d be better used in a more familiar deep-lying, holding position.

On the other hand, this is a lateral move, if that, for Bradley. He moves to a provincial club in the north of Italy in a suburb of Verona with a population of about 4,500. I only mention this as a positive for him.

Had he moved to Napoli as was rumored at the beginning of summer, he’d be in a city with close to one million residents, a large percentage of them argent supporters. He would also be dealing with a club with Scudetto aspirations as well as participation in Champions League. While I have no doubt that is exactly what he wants, I think it just isn’t in the cards for him yet as he hasn’t been exposed to that sort of scrutiny in either of his previous stops.

In Chievo, things will be less pressurized for his first stop in Serie A.

The 11th place finish that the club had last season is about what supporters expect. Anything higher is considered great. Anything lower…well, just don’t make it too low.

Tactically, Bradley’s positioning and awareness should also benefit from playing in Italy as Chievo will be underdogs in a good number of their matches which will put added emphasis on staying in position and being sound defensively – both items that will translate well to the national team.

Professionally, I can’t see him getting much from this move. He will not be battling for a European spot and, to be honest, will be closer to the relegation zone. Playing against Milan or Inter at the San Siro in the Sunday night fixture with the eyes of the nation, and world, on you is what makes playing in Serie A special. Playing a Saturday noontime fixture on a mud-covered pitch in Lecce in January isn’t. The only question I have remaining is what the other clubs from Germany, England, Spain, Russia, Belgium, and Greece that were interested in Bradley, according to his agent.

43 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Gino on 2011/08/30 at 11:23 AM

    Glass half full: Bradley is out of his coache’s doghouse and gets major minutes in the Serie A, still one of the top 4 leagues in the world. He shakes off the rust by playing against the likes of AC Milan, Inter, Napoli, Udinese, Roma and develops a more technical game. Plus, he re-establishes himself with the USMNT.

    Glass half empty: The EPL and Bundesliga are currently above Italy’s top flight. Chievo are unlikely to earn a place in Europe next term, should he stay beyond this year. Bradley “refines” his ill-tempered nature in the land that practically invented drama and complaining.


    • Posted by EFG on 2011/08/30 at 11:29 AM

      It isn’t as though he’s joining Fiorentina, a club with history of success that would have qualified for Europe if not for some bad luck and some injuries. Chievo is, and will be, firmly stuck in the bottom half of the table…probably.


      • Posted by Martin on 2011/08/30 at 11:46 AM

        You’d prefer he rot on the bench at BMG?


        • Posted by EFG on 2011/08/30 at 11:53 AM

          Not at all. I’m glad he’ll get minutes but for someone looking for a chance at Europe, he kind of missed the mark there. I’m just not sure about Chievo for him professionally. Great for USMNT, little worried about Bradley himself. If they get relegated, which I don’t see happening, does he stick it out or push for another move?


          • Posted by Martin on 2011/08/30 at 2:34 PM

            Since none of us was privy to the negotiations, I’ll assume this is the best Michael and his agent could do. Do you have any information that there was a better spot for him? You seem to be suggesting Bradley had a chance to go some place better and screwed it up? Perhaps Arsenal was breaking down his doors, saying “sign with us, sign with us”?

            If his dream is to play in the champions league, at Chievo, he is a lot closer to that dream with a chance to play as well as he can and maybe impressing a bigger club, as opposed to sitting on his butt at BMG.

            The man is not going to get anyone’s attention sitting in the stands.


      • Posted by DeJongsCollectionOfBrokenLegs on 2011/08/30 at 1:19 PM

        Better Chievo than Rangers. Better to be in a deep league where he’s tested week-in and week-out as opposed to some small leauge super club where he can coast for most of the season except for a couple big matches and a handful of europa league games.


    • Posted by Tifoso81 on 2012/04/07 at 8:51 AM

      I have seen Michael Bradley play a few times this season, most recently vs. Juventus, and he is without a doubt one of the most improved players on the US men’s national team. He has good vision, passes accurately, has confidence on the ball, is sound defensively and is aware and astute tactically. In Italy players learn how to manage their game amidst strict tactics and little space to operate, and Bradley has done a very good job.

      He had to go where he got a chance to play regularly. That sounds so simple and yet is very overlooked. You all speak of Fiorentina and Napoli, but I can say with confidence that he would’ve never gotten a chance to play in Napoli. Bradley is good but not good enough to displace the likes of Inler, Gargano, Dzermaili, etc.

      Take Jozy Altidore for example. He was sold to Villareal, never got to play, and was loaned to a few places and now finds himself in Holland. He is playing again and seems to have rediscovered his scoring touch, but he really hasn’t developed as a player all that much over the last few years. Some of you will not understand this, but, well, you’ll see at the World Cup in Brazil.

      Chievo is fine enough for Bradley right now. He has done well this season and if he continues his form other clubs will take notice, even if Chievo gets relegated (they won’t). The SerieA and its managers, players and tactics are very underrated and, in reality the Calcio in Italy is no worse than the EPL or the Bundesliga. All of this will help Bradley in his development as a player.


  2. In fair Verona, where we lay our scene….hope this move doesn’t end that tragically. Really pulling for Bradley to make the most of this move, for his own good. Glad he found a team. Could be worse.


  3. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/08/30 at 12:59 PM

    Better than seeing zero playing time, but would have been nice for him to be on a team where there is some pressure / expectation on a weekly basis. That would have benefited the USNT. But I guess with the transfer window almost over, that maybe a little greedy. I guess he’s not the only one to suffer from “employment” gaps in his CV regarding prospective employers in this tough market…


  4. Posted by matthewsf on 2011/08/30 at 1:11 PM

    I think what’s telling here as well is that the market has assessed fair value for Michael Bradley.

    It’s not Villa (who are a middling EPL club). It’s not a top EPL club or top Bundesliga club. It’s a middle of the road Serie A club at 24. And–though some may say I dislike Bradley, that’s untrue–this is his prime unless he further develops his tactical defensive awareness and play in possession.

    So much like Jozy, it’s going to be a season or two here of “what’s the ceiling?”



    • Posted by Jared on 2011/08/30 at 1:43 PM

      I agree. This will give him a chance to play and hopefully develop. He got himself into a bad situation at a Villa club that was in turmoil so this will hopefully be a step in the right direction.

      Any talk of him going to Napoli was a pipe dream for him. A club like that is going to be buying a guy that couldn’t get minutes at Villa.


  5. Posted by daniel on 2011/08/30 at 1:37 PM

    Guys, if it really is a two-year deal and he puts in a good term he’ll be sold come May to a bigger club.


  6. Posted by dikranovich on 2011/08/30 at 8:30 PM

    from what i have read, tsg does not rate bradley and him moving to a team in serie a becomes sort of a shot at his value with the mens team. aside from the fact that the transfer fee is still undisclosed, it is speculation as to the amount. i mean, is emanual eboue going to galatasary for 3 million euro, does that mean he is a million dollars better than bradley? weird angles being covered here. and the idea of bradley not being able to deal with pressure from “ardent” supporters does reek of something.

    keep up the postulation fellas. 5


    • Posted by Jared on 2011/08/31 at 4:02 AM

      I’m not sure what this article had to do with TSG taking a shot at Bradley. He moved to Chievo Verona for a reported fee of 2 mil. They never compared him to Eboue or said that he wasn’t deserving of his US spot. The article simply stated that it was a lateral move and that they expected him to go to a better club.

      His inability to deal with any type of criticism from fans or reporters reeks of MB90 needing to grow up. Have you heard about how he’s responded to criticism from the benign US media? If he went to Napoli and was poor it would be far worse.

      TSG aren’t the only ones that don’t rate Bradley and I think this move is one that is right about the level of play for him. That doesn’t mean that he’s not capable of playing for the US but he’s just not good enough for a team like Napoli or any others that want to be competing for the Champions League.


    • Posted by EFG on 2011/08/31 at 4:35 AM

      Eboue is going to a bigger club that competes in Europe, has more money, and can afford an extra million Euros. Do I rate Eboue as “better” than Bradley? Not particularly, but from everything I’ve seen Eboue is one of those good character guys that you’d love to have on your team, for what it’s worth.

      My intention was never to swipe at MB with some thinly veiled insults. Rather, I was only trying to show my confusion at the move. For a player that has seemingly made moves to bigger clubs in each of his moves, this one sort of steered off that trend. I, obviously, do not know all of the details in the negotiation or what the other clubs (if any) that were reportedly interested in MB. I, personally, think he’s a fine player and I think this move can help his development.

      The comparison to the Napoli rumors was only meant to highlight the differences between the two clubs in stature and atmosphere – not an indictment on what I may/may not think of Bradley’s personality or attitude. For someone who is trying to show that he can stay on good terms with a manager, train hard, and get minutes to angle for a move to another club in 1-2 years time (probably out of Italy) AND back to the USMNT, then Chievo is the more logical choice than Napoli.


  7. Posted by 4now on 2011/08/31 at 2:37 AM

    Thanks for the excellent write-up. Good luck to MB on this sojourn. As long as he gets minutes and finds his form, it will be a good move. MB is not really a special player. He is an entirely serviceable professional who could hold his own at any league in the world. Nothing to be ashamed of. Know your limits.


    • Posted by Plushtoy on 2011/08/31 at 3:12 AM

      Maybe I’m the only one but I think this is a best case scenario for young Bradley. Chievo is a “little engine that could” team that is well liked and cheered by neutral supporters around Italy. Their unexpectedly long run in Serie A continues to be thrilling and they have a fist pumping never say die attitude that is a good fit for this player. I expect this move to give him a great place to learn more skills in a lower pressure atmosphere and, much like during his time in Holland, I think the USMNT and Bradley will only benefit.


  8. Posted by JD on 2011/08/31 at 4:18 AM

    Like Matt said, Chievo is about right for Bradley.

    Bradley really doesn’t have the passing ability, vision, or technical ability for a top club.

    To observe this is not to slight Bradley. He’s a fine player of middling talent. Where the things he does well are run, and “get stuck in”, and make intelligent trailing runs that generate scoring opportunities.

    The writing has been on the wall for a while. Players rarely develop much better spatial awareness or substantially upgrade their technical skills in their mid-20s.

    We have been dreaming for something more largely because he was a fixture in the national team. But also for another reason: Bradley is a pretty good embodiment a very particular way of playing soccer. He is hard-running, plays with great heart, is long on hustle and short on technique.

    This might be asking for it, I don’t know. But…

    A couple decades ago as a teenager I lived in an East coast city and played OPD soccer. Bradley reminds me of what I saw in those ODP state soccer teams. And at age 15-17, there were always better kids playing on parks in the city.

    So naturally the discussion of Bradley is always pretty close to the big debates about aesthetics and what sort of soccer we’d like to see develop here.


    • Posted by dth on 2011/08/31 at 6:42 AM

      Bradley has all of the technical abilities necessary–in fact, I’d argue his technical ability is among the best in the center midfield pool. He’s very good at buying space for himself against onrushing pressure; he can make all of the passes.

      The problem for Bradley is tactical and more specifically the tempo at which he plays. It’s become noticeably slower.


      • Posted by dth on 2011/08/31 at 6:44 AM

        This is the sort of thing that can change, by the way: look at Sacha Kljestan, who’s about Bradley’s age and who improved his speed of play considerably at Anderlecht, so much so that in my mind, he’s a candidate for the starting XI.


        • Posted by JD on 2011/08/31 at 4:03 PM

          The Kljestan example is interesting. I saw a couple of his games on tv and he was ok. One in person where he was not. Personally, I’m not sold on him. But he has improved.

          As for MB– I think His technique is mediocre: limited ability to play weighted penetrating passes, balls he pops up or otherwise doesn’t control as cleanly as one would wish, mis-hit passes. Holden is clearly better, no? What about Torres, and maybe even Jones?

          We may just disagree about how skilled MB is. And that is fine.


          • Posted by dikranovich on 2011/08/31 at 4:20 PM

            JD, i think you have hit the nail right on the head. im sorry to say this, but if you favor holden to bradley, well, it only makes sense that you will dis junior, “especially” considering his father has been the coach all this time. fans want their guys in there, its only natural, so this sort of backhanded bs goes on. im sure it is controversial to say it as well, but its so true. junior and holden have played plenty of games on the pitch together over the past four years, there is no way holden has outperformed junior in those matches.

            time will tell though and there will be no excuses either way, because if junior mantains his status within the team, or perhaps becomes captain, of the mens team im talking about, then these people putting down a top performer can eat there words, with a little sugar on top. now if bradley is hanging out with danny szetela come 2014, then the bradley campers should maybe do their own penence. (4)


          • Posted by dth on 2011/09/02 at 7:17 PM

            Well, if you’re going to critique someone’s inability to deliver through balls…all four of those players fail. None of them deliver through balls with any consistency. In fact, of the four, I’ve seen Bradley deliver the most of them. It’s weird: somehow people have convinced themselves that Holden and Torres are highly creative players when they’re just distributors. Holden’s a good one and Torres is an OK one; but just distributors, not someone who will create chances.

            As to mistouches and poor control…Holden might be better, sure. Bradley’s generally good enough, I think. Again, not the main issue with Bradley. If he improved that, even substantially, it wouldn’t impact his total production much.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/08/31 at 4:35 PM

        Is giving the ball away “tactical” then?

        I have seen it numerous times, and McCallister said that was the main reason why he didn’t get much playing time at Villa, and why they didn’t exercise their right to buy option.


        • Posted by dth on 2011/09/02 at 7:13 PM

          Yes, I would say so. Technique is the tools you have in the toolbox and tactical ability is how you use the tools. Bradley’s got the tools; he doesn’t necessarily use them well.

          Bradley’s problem has not been–for some time–giving the ball away. He was the U.S.’s highest pass percentage completed in the Gold Cup and was often over 80% of passes completed. Instead, the problem for Bradley is the tempo with which he makes decisions, the people he chooses to pass to, and the weight and pace with which he delivers those passes.


  9. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/08/31 at 4:37 AM

    Obviously, playing time is the main thing for Bradley. And I agree that it’s probably better for him to be playing weekly in Serie A than in a weaker league. Chievo are a midtable team, so it’s not like they’re going to get spanked every game and playing defensively 100% of the time in order not to get beat.

    It would be interesting if Bradley consulted Klinsmann regarding this move, and what Klinsmann said.


  10. Posted by Jared on 2011/08/31 at 6:34 AM

    That video is hilarious. He really is his father’s son. He barely breaks his monotone to state that he’s very excited to be there.

    Also enjoyed that he said that he played only a little bit in England. At least he’s honest.

    Good luck and get some playing time. Please do better than Lalas.


  11. Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/08/31 at 7:43 AM

    The thing we learn through this is the free market speaks very clearly and loud. Given the opportunity to assess his value and desirability he’s landed at a small lower half club in the 3rd/4th best league in the world. That’s not awful but obviously not how he saw himself. Good luck to him and hopefully he embraces the chance, loses some of the ‘tude and becomes a better on ball defender.

    Watched BMG over the weekend and the difference in their back 6 is startling. Watched them a ton when MB was there and they were plodding and disorganized. They now move the ball well through the MF and are enjoyable to watch. Considering what we’ve seen at AV and USMNT the last 18 months it can be no accident that their speed of play has taken off.


  12. Posted by Gregorio on 2011/08/31 at 10:05 AM

    I think like many here (Ok a few), think this a good move for MB<90. Chievo is a decent team in a good league where he will hopefully get consistent minutes. And the criticisms of him posted here can hopefully be abated or minimized. He can adapt his game and increase his speed of thought/ movement like Sacha has, but the key fact is that Chievo will provide for him is a lower pressure opportunity to hone those skills. If he were to be at say Napoli or some bigger club, the time he would need to acciimate himself to the routinue of play would be limited. In other words he wouldn't be able to grow into his role.
    Comparisions to other players like Eboue to Turkey is always fodder for forums like this, we all love a good fat chewing session but I think Turkey somewhat like Russia, is not a desired location for some so I believe teams there must pay more to attract talent; the ugly or plain, or fat chick has to work harder or be nicer than the bitchy supermodel.


  13. Posted by dikranovich on 2011/08/31 at 2:36 PM

    juniors career choices have seen him go to teams that were not high up the table. he went to heerenveen and this team went on to qualify for europe. he went to germany, i think, with the intention of being part of the ressurection of a pretty famous club in germany. to me, when marco marin left m’gladback that is when junior realized he was not going to be at the german club much longer. last season he made a mid season move to villa and he did it when villa was fighting off religation. so he did not finalize a deal after a new manager took over villa. that does not mean much to me considering this coach could not even keep birmingham city in the epl.

    junior is off on a new adventure, i think he see more advantage to going to smaller clubs and working to move the club up the table, this to me makes the most sense. the idea that bradley is not technical enough or tactically sound is garbage, plan and simple. the market is supply and demand, its not really a free market.


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/09/01 at 7:09 AM

      Though your defense is noble, you miss (or choose to ignore) the key point. He sat without a deal throughout the player movement window and beyond. Players with value get picked up within the window. He didn’t.
      His last club team mgr encouraged him to find other pastures (after he is rumored to have quit on the team) and the team suddenly turned around and improved enough to avoid relegation.
      His new national team coach (a guy who has seen and managed a few intl class MF’s in his time) has quickly chosen to assess other CMF/DMF options and reduce his mins and presence in the side. Something his father/mgr couldn’t seem to be able to balance.
      It’s getting a bit tiring hearing from posters who make reference to unfair criticisms, Bradley bashing etc on here as if there is an agenda. The fact is that if you took his resume the last 18 months and blanked his name out, I think most rational observers would conclude that this is a not a player in an upward career trend.
      Good luck to him in this step and I truly hope that he succeeds and improves his speed of play and defensive abilities/desire. Add that to his physical game and he can be a huge asset.


      • Posted by Martin on 2011/09/02 at 12:55 PM

        “He sat without a deal throughout the player movement window and beyond. Players with value get picked up within the window. He didn’t.”

        “It’s getting a bit tiring hearing from posters who make reference to unfair criticisms, Bradley bashing etc on here as if there is an agenda. ”

        Whether you have an agenda or not is unknown but when the player movement window ended Bradley had a deal with Chievo. So your first quoted statement is inaccurate.

        Player movement is not simply a function of their comparative ability. Once you get past certain elite players, there are many factors most of us will never be aware of.

        Michael Bradely is a slightly below average international level player.

        His main asset is his comparative youth, an proven aggressive nature, a proven willingness to shoot, coupled with a lot of experience and comparatively low price tag.

        His main deficit is he plays a position with a lot of supply, whatever the demand may be. I get the impression most US fans think he is arrogant and cocky but, in comparison to many of his professional colleagues in Europe the guy is almost personable. There are a lot bigger jerks out there.

        “The fact is that if you took his resume the last 18 months and blanked his name out, I think most rational observers would conclude that this is a not a player in an upward career trend.”

        He’s 24 so a neutral observer could be forgiven for thinking the last 18 months were a speed bump. It’s too soon to say his career is on a downward slide and it’s pretty clear that a lot of his recent issues had a fair amount to do with factors that were beyond his control.

        And just to be perfectly clear I don’t think he is particularly talented or that the USMNT need ever see him again. I’d be perfectly okay if his USMNT career were over right now.

        But he does have one thing of value to the US.

        Like many US fans I think you make the mistake of rating players simply by their skill sets. You ignore the intangibles. MB brings only his total committment to the cause and I believe it fuels his ability to rise to the occasion (note the goal in the Gold Cup final and his overall performance in the World Cup). There are many more talented US players (Torres) but when it comes to mental toughness a guy like Torres melts into a puddle of goo, comparatively speaking.


        • Posted by dikranovich on 2011/09/02 at 3:04 PM

          martin, your prose is nice and you suggest junior is a “slightly below average international player”, im just wondering who you think are some examples of average international players? i think i understand, with your keen eye, you know better.


          • Posted by Martin on 2011/09/02 at 6:55 PM


            “you suggest junior is a “slightly below average international player”, im just wondering who you think are some examples of average international players? i think i understand, with your keen eye, you know better”

            Know better?

            First of all, his name is Michael Sheehan Bradley not Bob Bradley Junior, so when you say Junior, as far as I know Bob Bradley does not have a son named Robert.

            If you are saying MB is better than I rate him perhaps I should clarify what I meant by slightly below average.

            FIFA ranks 203 national teams. The US’ current ranking is 28th.

            Chances are MB would be an above average player for a majority of the 175 teams (Bhutan, Andorra, Nepal, San Marino, Eritrea, etc.) ranked below the US. In that sense, he is certainly an above average international player.

            However I am not a fan of FIFA rankings; I prefer to use the “sweet sixteen” of the last World Cup, where Bradley was arguably in his best form recently, as a sort of “most recent top sixteen”:

            Spain, Holland, Germany, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Mexico, Japan, England, South Korea, Ghana, Slovakia, Portugal, and the USA.

            In my view this was the most recent world wide test of national soccer teams.

            On how many of these sixteen teams would Bradley start? On how many of them would he even make the final twenty-three or get an appearance? If MB was a dual national and had not yet been capped-tied by the US how many of them would try to lure him over?

            I’m too lazy to go over them team by team but I think it’s less than half hence the “below average”.


  14. Posted by John on 2011/08/31 at 2:40 PM

    One does have to say… out of the many places I could live my life… Verona is right up there.



  15. Posted by Chuck Howard on 2011/09/01 at 12:01 PM

    Great discussion — I’m new.

    Which of our National Team midfield players are currently playing for a team that is /better/ than mid-table Serie A? Think about that…

    Dempsey? Yep.
    Edu? Easy to argue either way.
    Donovan. I would say mid-table Serie A is better than top-table MLS.
    Torres? Doubtful.
    Kljestan? Not really.
    I wouldn’t classify Holden, Clark, or Jermaine Jones as ‘playing’ right now, so I think this is an interesting question…

    Anyone else?


  16. […] places that MB90 could have ended up. He is currently the only American born player in the Serie A. Some may say this is not the optimal move for Junior, and those people are just wrong. MB90 has been, and will always be more suited for Italy than […]


  17. Posted by sabella on 2011/09/04 at 6:42 PM

    This is the right move for Bradley.He is going to get a lot of minutes in one of the best leagues in the world.

    He needs to use this opportunity to take his game to the next level and I have no doubt he will.

    The last thing he needs is to be seduced by a top-of-the-table club only to ride the bench.


  18. […] Serie A: Michael Bradley At Chievo Verona [The Shin Guardian] […]


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