Ex-Aston Villa man plays crucial role in Sunderland's Altidore-Defoe swap

Sunderland's Jozy Altidore for Jermain Defoe swap deal might not have been possible were it not for the role of Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley.

Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley has revealed in an interview with the Toronto Sun how he played a crucial role in bringing US team mate Jozy Altidore to BMO Field.

After 18 disappointing months in Sunderland, Altidore returned to MLS to join Toronto last week in a swap deal for Jermain Defoe, with the hope of reigniting his once-promising career.

The striker’s struggles were well-documented at the Stadium of Light, having netted just three goals in 53 total appearances, and an exit had been mooted for several months after he himself voiced his concern over his lack of first-team minutes.

Agent Lyle Yorks told MLSSoccer.com in November that several European clubs were interested in his client’s signature, with French side Lille considered the front-runners at the time, but, with the help of Bradley, Toronto were able to jump to the head of the queue.

Altidore in fact contacted his compatriot about a move to the Canadian outfit in October, with the ex-Aston Villa loanee explaining: “Jozy texted me at the end of October and said, ‘Listen, I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the different conversations we’ve had and ... I’d love to come to Toronto.’

“I spoke with [the front office] and those guys deserve all the credit in the world,” he continued. “Like I said, we had real honest conversations and they really believed it was important to get Jozy here.”

In fact, Altidore first started enquiring about life in Toronto when the two were together at the World Cup in Brazil.

“We discussed everything,” Bradley said. “The way things are done day in and day out — the stadium, the fans, the pressure. We talked about training. At the end of the day, those are most important.”

Altidore’s reputation might have taken a considerable hit after his failed spell in England, but the imposing front man has proven himself a more than capable MLS goalscorer in the past.

A rising star with the New York Red Bulls as a teenager, he struck 16 times in 41 games between 2006 and 2008, before sealing a then-league-record $10 million move to Villarreal, and Bradley believes fans can expect even better this time around.

“It’s too easy to say, ‘Jozy didn’t score in the Premier League, he’s no good,’” he said. “Go watch the games he played in Holland [with AZ Alkmaar]. Go watch games he has played for the U.S.

“They’re big games. Confederations Cup games. World Cup games. Big World Cup qualifiers. I urge them to see what they think of his contributions on those days.”

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