>(Sunday, July 6, 2008) -- AS Monaco of France has set its sights on a pair of young American midfielders: Michael Bradley and Freddy Adu.
According to France's Le Figaro, Monaco has offered nearly $9.5 mission dollars to SC Heerenveen for Bradley, a 20-year-old who led his Dutch club with 16 goals in the Eredivisie and 20 in all competitions in 2007-08. Bradley, who is the son of U.S. men's coach Bob Bradley, set a record for the most goals scored by an American in a European first division, eclipsing the mark of 12 set by striker Brian McBride for Fulham FC in the English Premier League in 2006-07.
Previously, Bayer Leverkusen of the German Bundesliga and Middelsbrough of the EPL expressed interest in Bradley, but Monaco's reported bid far exceeds those of any other club. Weeks ago, Bayer Leverkusen was reported to be prepared to offer Heerenveen slightly less than $5 million for Bradley.
The latest word out of the Monaco camp (and the team's web site) is the club also "really wants" to sign young Adu who, despite is youth, has been a professional since April 2004.
Monaco president Jerome de Bontin told the web site his team not only wants Adu for his potential on the field, but also to "export the image of the club to a wider international audience."
The web site said Monaco is negotiating with Adu's current club, Benfica of Portugal, and getting closer to working of the details for a transfer.
The deal might be a bit easier to work out given that current Monaco coach Ricardo Gomes played for Benefica for five years and has maintained friendly relations with his old club. Gomes also might be symapathetic to Adu's Summer Olympics aspirations since he himself won a silver medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, playing as a defender for Brazil.
Bradley and Adu are both central to the United States Olympic hopes for a competition where players are from the under-23 age group, though three "overage" exceptions are permitted per team. Clubs are not required to release their players to their national Olympic teams. Heerenveen, chasing a berth in the next round of European tournament, did not allow Bradley to participate in the Americans' CONCACAF qualifying tournament, but Benfica allowed Adu to go.
Most Olympic participants will miss their club's preseason training, as well as possibly the beginning of their season,
A pair of Italian Serie A teams have expressed interest in Adu. The Italian press has reported that Bologna had entered into talks with Benfica, while the Portuguese press had Genoa also looking into acquiring Adu.
Benfica appears interested in recouping the millions it spent to pry Adu loose from Major League Soccer's Real Salt Lake.
Apparently, Benfica's asking price has proven too rich for Adu's Italian suitors, but Genoa says it is still negotiating. Monaco, however, has deep pockets and is intent on improving its 12th place finish and 13-17-8 record in Ligue 1
The French newspaper Nice Matin speculated Adu could see significant playing time early with Monaco.
As previously reported here, American defender Carlos Bocanegra signed a multi-year contract with Rennes of France's Ligue 1. This shows how money has become a significant factor in the transfer market. Oguchi Onyewu, Bocanegra's mate in the middle of the U.S. defense, would have been a better fit.
Rennes needed a physical central defender and Onyewu would fit. Moreover, "Gooch" speaks French and is accustomed to the French system after playing in the country earlier in his career. However, Onyewu's current club, Belgium champion Standard de Liège, is asking a steep price for him, somewhere between $3.9 and $4.7 million). Having been released by Fulham, Bocanegra was a free transfer, so Rennes saved itself several million there.
Onyewu, meanwhile, is still on the shopping list of FC Cologne coach Christoph Daum in the Bundesliga, but the German club also reports it is facing competition from an English club, reported in the Belgium media to be Fulham.
After two seasons with 1860 Munich of the second-tier 2Bundesliga in Germany, U.S. striker Josh Wolff signed to play again for the Kansas City Wizards of MLS. After last season, Munich released Wolff, who scoured Europe, before signing with the Wizards, who will pay him considerably less then he made in Germany last year.
Wolff's wife is expecting the couple's third son and this likely imfluenced his decision to return to the States.
The fate of American forward Brian McBride remains unclear following his decision to leave Fulham after a four-and-one-half-year stint in which emerged as its most reliable scorer, its most popular player and the Cottagers captain last season.
Fulham reportedly offered McBride a new contract worth about $2 million a year for two more seasons, but he and his wife have expressed interest in having their growing children return to American schools. McBride grew up in Chicago suburbs and owns a house in Arlington Heights, so he surprised Fulham by declining its offer and telling MLS that he wanted to come back and play for the Chicago Fire.
Thus far, Chicago has not been able to obtain his MLS rights and to get them has a complicated road to follow. If Chicago plans on paying McBride more than $400,000, it must make him a designated player. Since the Fire already has one in midfielder Cuauhtémoc Blanco, it would have to acquire a second designated player slot from a team not using its one.
Furthermore, under the MLS rules regarding returning United States national-team players, Toronto FC has first rights to McBride. Toronto and Chicago have talked, but Fire officials have said Toronto was asking for far too much. It was reported Toronto requested midfielder Justin Mapp, plus two other starters for McBride's rights.
McBride has said nothing, but the door to Fulham probably remains open to him should he reevaluate his situation.
Finally, Serie A side Cagliari is reported to be interested in U.S. and Colorado Rapids midfielder Pablo Mastroeni. The 31-year-old veteran has wanted to play in Spain or Italy and according to Napoli Affari, Cagliari is quite interested in signing him. Originally born in Argentina, Mastroeni's international performances have been seen positively in the Italian press since he seems to fit the mold coaches here are looking for.
The Sardinian side finished 14th in the league last year and is looking for experience in the midfield but does not have the resources to buy big-name talent. So, Mastroeni may be just what they need.