There were a lot of clubs looking closely at Michael Bradley, but as soon as the U.S. national team midfielder got word that Aston Villa was interested, his departure from Borussia Moenchengladbach was a done deal.
The 23-year-old midfielder, the son of U.S. coach Bob Bradley, on Monday joined Villa, arriving on loan until summer.
The Birmingham-based club, mired in a disappointing English Premier League campaign, has an option to purchase Bradley's contract, which runs until summer 2012. The announcement follows by days Pasadena's Yura Movsisyan's move from Danish club Randers to Russian Premier League side FC Krasnodar.
Bradley, whose family lives in Manhattan Beach, won't be cleared to play in Villa's game Tuesday against Manchester United, but he could debut Saturday against U.S. teammate Clint Dempsey and Fulham.
“Within the last week or so I heard that the manager [Gerard Houllier] was interested in bringing me here,” Bradley told Aston Villa's Web site. “From the moment I heard that, I was really excited and really just hoping that everything could get done. For me, the Premier League is the best league in the world. You watch a game in the Premier League, and the speed of the game, the pace and the power all stand out.
“To have the opportunity to come here and test myself at the highest level, week in and week out, is incredible, and to try to take the things I do as a player and make them count at the highest level -- it's a great challenge.”
Bradley's father was linked to the Aston Villa managerial job until Houllier, a former French national team coach, was hired in early September. The club is owned by Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner and features three other Americans: goalkeepers Brad Friedel and Brad Guzan and defender Eric Lichaj.
Bradley, who signed with MLS's MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) at 16, moved to Holland's Heerenveen at 18 and joined Gladbach in 2008 on a $3.43 million transfer, has quickly risen in international soccer. He enjoyed a breakthrough World Cup in South Africa and was one of few pluses this season for the German club, which sits at the bottom of the Bundesliga standings.
Bradley's representatives asked for a transfer during the Bundesliga's winter break, Gladbach technical director Max Eberl told German newspaper Express, and there was immediate interest from England's Sunderland, Turkey's Galatasaray, Italy's Palermo and several Bundesliga clubs.
Reports Friday had Bradley headed to Galatasaray on a $6.8 million transfer, but he spent the weekend in England finalizing details and taking a medical exam.
“I try to be a guy in the center of midfield who imposes himself on the game and can get forward and get goals,” said Bradley, who has scored 29 goals in 5½ seasons in Europe. “I try to win tackles and, defensively, make it really hard on the other team in the center of the field. If you look at football nowadays, every team needs guys who are in the center of the field to win the battle in there. I will try to do everything I can to help the team be successful.”
ELDER STATESMAN: Friedel, at 39 years, 260 days, will become the oldest player ever to represent Aston Villa when he steps onto the field Tuesday against Manchester United.
Whether the former U.S. national team goalkeeper and UCLA star will play much beyond 40 isn't certain -- Houllier says he'll assess Friedel's future over the next month -- but he doesn't see why not.
“Age is a number. I don't think about it. I just go by how I feel,” Friedel told the English media last week. “If I feel good and able to play, that makes me happy. If the time comes when I don't feel good, and I'm not able to play, I will start looking to do something else.
“As long as I feel good, I will carry on. I will know closer to the end of the season than right now.”
Friedel, who turns 40 in May, is in his 14th Premier League season -- and third at Aston Villa, following stints with Liverpool and Blackburn. He's started all but three games this season for the Villans (and every game since Sept. 26), forcing backup Guzan to join second-tier Hull City on loan just to get game action. (The former Chivas USA goalkeeper just extended the loan deal through February.)
Friedel, who was on the U.S. roster for the 1994 World Cup, played in the 1998 tournament and was the Americans' No. 1 en route to the 2002 quarterfinals, isn't sure how to feel about becoming Aston Villa's eldest player.
“I don't know if it will be a good thing or a bad thing to be the oldest player ever to play for the club,” he said. “I will continue to just keep myself as fit as possible and hopefully be chosen to play football matches.”
GOALSCORERS: Fontana's Maurice Edu scored a sizzler of a goal to send Rangers FC into Scotland's League Cup final, and Irvine's Matt Taylor netted two more to push his season total to 10.
Edu, making just his second competitive start since returning from a knee injury, found the net with a thunderous blast to start Rangers to a 2-1 victory Sunday over Motherwell. The central midfielder was active and excellent for the Blues, who will meet archrival Celtic in the March 20 title game. Rangers gets Celtic in next week's Scottish Cup round of 16, too.
Taylor, who has hit double-digits in just 14 German third-division matches, tallied just before halftime in Rot Weiss Ahlen's 3-1 loss Tuesday at Werder Bremen II and converted a penalty kick in the 76th minute of Saturday's 1-1 draw with SpVgg Unterhaching. He has eight goals in his past eight league games, scoring in the past three and in seven of the past eight 3. Bundesliga encounters.
STAY PUT?: Irvine's Benny Feilhaber, pursued by clubs in Mexico, Brazil and Europe, might just stick with Danish second-division leader AGF Aarhus.
The club, which has him under contract until summer, would like to re-sign the attacking midfielder, his agent told Major League Soccer's Web site, and more forgiving tax laws (and an anticipated return to the top division) could sway Feilhaber to stay. AGF returns to action March 20.
ETC.: Irvine teen Bobby Wood made his first-team debut for 1860 Munich, coming on in the 82nd minute of a 1-1 draw with MSV Duisburg in Germany's second flight. ... Also on the move: Santa Monica's Dallas Moore, who has left the Southern League Premier Division's Halesowen Town to join unbeaten St. Neots Town in the United Counties League's Premier Division. Moore, a 20-year-old central defender, was Halesowen's captain. ... Saint-Etienne, with Alta Loma's Carlos Bocanegra, is two points outside a European berth in France's Ligue 1. … Former Galaxy forward Edson Buddle, who scored in his midweek debut for FC Ingolstadt in Germany's second division, played 30 minutes off the bench in a 1-1 draw Saturday at RW Oberhausen. ... Former Galaxy forward Robbie Findley, who played for the U.S. at the World Cup last summer, has signed with Nottingham Forest, from England's second-tier Championship. Findley left Real Salt Lake when his contract expired at the end of last season. … 2006 U.S. World Cup forward Eddie Johnson has moved from Fulham to Championship side Preston North End on loan. … Benfica is loaning American midfielder Freddy Adu to Rizespor of the Turkish second division.
AREA PLAYERS IN EUROPE
D CARLOS BOCANEGRA (Alta Loma/UCLA)
Club: Saint-Etienne (France, Ligue 1)
Last week: 90 minutes, with a 90th-minute yellow card, as the seventh-place Verts (8-5-8) won, 2-1, Saturday over Toulouse
Season: 17 league games (17 starts) with 1 goal, 19 games (19 starts) with 1 goal in all competitions
Next: Saturday at sixth-place Montpellier (9-6-6)
M MICHAEL BRADLEY (Manhattan Beach)
Club: Aston Villa (England, Premier League)
Last week: Missed, while in England finalizing loan arrangements with Aston Villa, Borussia Moenchengladbach's 1-0 victory Sunday over Eintracht Frankfurt; finalzed a loan agreement to Aston Villa
Season: 19 league games (17 starts) with 3 goals; 22 games (20 starts) with 4 goals in all competitions
Next: Aston Villa (7-10-7), 13th in the EPL, plays Tuesday at first-place Manchester United (14-0-9) and Saturday against 15th-place Fulham (5-8-11)
D JAY DENNY (Santa Monica)
Club: Hednesford Town (England, Southern League Premier Division)
Last week: 90 minutes as the eighth-place Pitmen (11-8-4) won, 1-0, Saturday at Chippenham Town
Season: 23 league games (21 starts), 30 games (27 starts) with 1 goal in all competitions
Next: Tuesday vs. 13th-place Bashley (8-11-6), Saturday vs. 17th-place Hemel Hempstead Town (9-3-11)
M MAURICE EDU (Fontana)
Club: Rangers FC (Scotland, Premier Division)
Last week: 67th-minute substitute as the second-place Blues (16-3-2) won, 2-0, in league play Wednesday at Hibernian; 90 minutes, with a goal in the 20th, in a 2-1 victory Sunday over Motherwell in the Scottish League Cup semifinals
Season: 16 league games (11 starts) with 2 goals, 3 domestic cup games (3 starts) with 1 goal, 23 games (17 starts) with 4 goals in all competitions
Next: Wednesday vs. third-place Hearts (15-5-3), Sunday vs. Celtic in the Scottish Cup round of 16
M BENNY FEILHABER (Irvine/UCLA)
Club: AGF Aarhus (Denmark, 1.Division)
Last week: League is on winter break
Season: 14 league games (14 starts) with 4 goals, 17 games (16 starts) overall with 7 goals
Next: March 20 vs. Hobro (5-7-3)
G BRAD FRIEDEL (Bay Village, Ohio/UCLA)
Club: Aston Villa (England, Premier Division)
Last week: 90 minutes, with five saves and a 90th-minute yellow card, as the Villans (7-10-7) climbed to 13th Tuesday with a 2-1 victory at Wigan; 90 minutes, with 3 saves, in a 3-1 fourth-round win over Blackburn in the F.A. Cup
Season: 24 league games (24 starts), 40 goals allowed, 75 saves, 5 shutouts; 4 domestic cup games (4 starts), 5 goals allowed, 13 saves; 28 games (28 starts), 47 goals allowed, 88 saves, 5 shutouts in all competitions
Next: Tuesday at first-place Manchester United (14-0-9), Saturday against 15th-place Fulham (5-8-11)
M SACHA KLJESTAN (Huntington Beach)
Club: RSC Anderlecht (Belgium, Jupiler League)
Last week: Did not play in a 0-0 draw Sunday at KT Mechelen
Season: 13 league games (10 starts) with 2 goals, 21 games (18 starts) with 3 goals in all competitions
Next: Saturday vs. 12th-place St. Truiden (7-12-3)
D DALLAS MOORE (Santa Monica)
Club: St. Neots Town FC (England, UCL Premier Division)
Last week: Did not play in Halesowen Town's 2-1 overtime win Tuesday in a Worcestershire Senior Cup quarterfinal; transferred on Thursday to second-place St. Neots Town (18-0-3) of the United Counties League's Premier Division; did not play in St. Neots Town's 3-1 F.A. Vase victory Saturday at Gresley
Season: Has not played for St. Neots Town; 13 games for Halesowen Town (13 starts) with 1 goal
Next: Tuesday vs. 16th-place Yaxley (5-11-8), Saturday vs. third-place Kings Lynn Town (17-2-2)
F YURA MOVSISYAN (Pasadena/Pasadena City College)
Club: FC Krasnodar (Russia, Russian Premier League)
Last week: Transferred from Randers (Denmark) to FC Krasnodar
Season: 25 games (20 starts) with 14 goals for Randers in all competitions
Next: Season opener March 12 at Anzhi Makhachkala
F MATT TAYLOR (Irvine/UCLA)
Club: Rot Weiss Ahlen (Germany, 3. Bundesliga)
Last week: 90 minutes, with a goal in the 45th minute, as 13th-place Rot Weiss (5-7-8) was beaten, 3-1, Tuesday at Werder Bremen II; 90 minutes, with a goal on a penalty kick, in a 1-1 draw Saturday against SpVgg Unterhaching
Season: 14 league games (14 starts) with 10 goals, 15 games (15 starts) with 10 goals in all competitions
Next: Wednesday vs. 10th-place VfB Stuttgart II (5-5-9), Saturday at 14th-place SV Babelsberg (6-10-4)
BOBBY WOOD (Irvine)
Club: TSV 1860 Munich (Germany, 2. Bundesliga)
Last week: 82nd-minute substitute as ninth-place 1860 (8-5-7) tied, 1-1, Saturday against MSV Duisburg
Season: 1 league game (0 starts); 19 games (13 starts) with 7 goals in all competitions
Next: Monday vs. 11th-place Fortuna Duesseldorf (9-10-11)