Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Wat is er aan de hand?"

No, NSC hasn't suddenly switched languages. The title is Dutch slang for "What's goin' on?" - a question being asked thousands of times daily by impatient stateside fans that can't figure out why the Eredivisie season kickoff is rapidly approaching with Michael Bradley still in a Heerenveen uniform.

After all, he's been linked with interest from about a dozen Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Premiership and Scottish Premier League clubs for months on end, including several teams that have yet to fill the roster hole he'd fit. And yet, when he returns to training from extended USMNT duty on Friday, there will be no standing offers for his services.

The long wait has BigSoccer observers bickering over his asking price, the likelihood of a move, and of course, whether Bradley is worth all the fuss in the first place.

As for the transfer fee sought, I think many American fans are ignoring the shrewd sales nature of Heerenveen, who have already pocketed over €20 million for Miralem Sulejmani and Gianni Zuiverloon during this offseason.

"Bradley may leave, but only for a realistic offer," Frisians exec Yme Kuiper stated Wednesday. "If that is not the case, it's better that he stays to play for us... Heerenveen can surely appreciate his value."

And by 'value', he isn't necessarily referring to the price tag, which seems to be in the €4-6 million range, depending on how many clubs are interested at any given point in time.

Despite having only one year remaining on his contract, Bradley has H'veen negotiating tough for three reasons: #1) he is a 21-year old U.S. international starter that scored 19 goals across all competitions last season, #2) Heerenveen don't believe they have an equal or better player ready to step into his spot immediately, and most importantly, #3) the team can easily recoup any potential "non-sale loss" by having the American help them advance in this year's UEFA Cup and KNVB Cup, as well as enjoying his contribution as they chase another lucrative European berth for next season.

Put simply, they don't have to sell Bradley - so why would they accept a lowball offer? Anybody who thinks Heerenveen are going to be bargained down that easily clearly has no experience with Dutch business folk.

Some have also proffered that his participation in the Olympics caused interference, but it certainly didn't stop Olympic teammates Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Brad Guzan and Brian McBride from moving to new addresses.

I think more than anything he was hurt by Euro 2008, which resulted in an abnormally slow moving European transfer market and an extra number of hot midfield topics, such as Portugal's João Moutinho (also an Everton target). Most of the teams chasing Bradley have been very busy - if not dizzy - shoppers this summer (Celtic, Hamburg, Middlesbrough, Monaco, Newcastle, Werder Bremen, etc.), while others suffered through protracted offloads of outgoing players (Blackburn, Everton, Hamburg, etc.) that held up resulting business.

While it's also possible that admirer Marco van Basten jumps in with a late Ajax bid to fill one of his two remaining roster needs, Bradley has already asserted publicly that he's ready for a new adventure away from the Netherlands (by the way, I totally disagree with his assessment that the Eredivisie does not give a good platform for his skills).

I don't know exactly why, but I remain confident that a nice Bradley transfer will shake loose before August 31st (coincedentally, the same day his Blue White Vikings open their 2008/09 Eredivisie slate with a visit to promoted Volendam).

But who knows? Maybe the chicken littles back home are right. Maybe nobody is going to pay good money for him. Maybe Mikey will turn out to be like the great movie released in March that Oscar forgets to nominate by the end of the year.

Maybe, indeed. If no one names the right price, it's certainly possible that Heerenveen will decide it's better business to get full use of him this season and let him go free next summer...
but I still say he ends up at Everton.

Naturally, if they can snag Steven Appiah on the bounce, finally get Sporting Lisbon to accept a Moutinho offer, talk Rennes out of Stelhane M'Bia, overpay for Marseille's Lorik Cana or grab a reluctant Tiago on loan, I will change my assessment. It just seems like slow transfer movers tend to find each other when the window begins to close and the Toffees are in dire need of central midfield help.

Of course, the only thing happening slower than Goodison Park summer moves is my acceptance that Dr. Kelso is really gone from Sacred Heart hospital forever.

- Greg Seltzer

[Photos: Fean Fans & Scrubs/ABC]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see him in the Premiership, but I think he'd learn a bit more in Italy or Serie A. Maybe even Ligue 1.

I agree with you that the Eredivisie could still teach him a ton, especially if he moves up the ladder to Ajax.