U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley's transfer from Italian club AS Roma to Toronto FC of MLS became official on Monday, as the 26-year old was presented to the fans and media at jam-packed morning news conference in the heart of Canada's largest city.
• McIntyre: Why Bradley moved
Bradley's introduction was somewhat unexpected. The gala event in downtown Toronto was originally called to celebrate the arrival of English striker Jermain Defoe, another high-profile, big money signing who arrived from Tottenham Hotspur.
Financial details of the two stars' transfers and salaries were not disclosed, but the Toronto Star reported last week that both deals cost TFC, who have failed to make the MLS playoffs in each of their seven seasons, close to $100 million.
"What a reception ... I feel at home already," said Defoe, 31, the fifth-leading active scorer in English Premier League history, as roughly 100 fans in attendance serenaded him with chants.
Defoe will remain with Spurs until just before the MLS regular season begins in early March. Bradley, who Toronto confirmed signed as a designated player, will join the club immediately.
Defoe was recruited by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment president and CEO Tim Leiweke, the man who, as the head of the LA Galaxy, brought global icon David Beckham to North America in 2007.
Beckham was one of three stars Leiweke asked to help pitch MLS and TFC to the London-born Defoe. Galaxy striker Robbie Keane, who played with Defoe at Tottenham, and rap star and Toronto native Drake also reached out. Leiweke admitted he needed all the help he could get.
"This was not an easy decision" for Defoe and his family, Leiweke said. "At first they weren't sure about us, and I don't blame them."
When he arrives for good this spring, Defoe will reunite with another ex-Spurs mate in Ryan Nelsen, now TFC's coach, who first spoke to his top target about making the move last summer.
While Defoe's deal took many months to complete, Bradley's was completed quickly. Luring the heart and soul of the U.S. national team from Serie A power AS Roma now, at age 26, seemed like a pipe dream until about two weeks ago, admitted Toronto general manager Tim Bezbatchenko, who had the imposing central midfielder atop his own wish list.
"I thought it would be down the road, frankly, in a couple years," Bezbatchenko said. "But once it became known that he might be available" around Jan. 1, he said, "I was the first in line."
For his part, Bradley insisted it was the opportunity to build a winner in a long-suffering sports town that attracted him back to the league he left in 2006, when he was 18.
"I've always made decisions in my career based on the football," Bradley said. "When I had the opportunity to speak to everybody from TFC, I knew it was a opportunity I couldn't -- I didn't want to --pass up.
"To help bring a winning team to this city, a team that you all can be proud of here, I can tell you I've never been more excited, more determined and more motivated for any challenge in my entire career."
And Leiweke said that without Defoe and 24-year-old Brazilian striker Gilberto already on board, the club might not have been able to add Bradley at all.
"I think the Defoe deal was recruitment," he said. "When Michael understood that we were really committed to winning here, it made that decision and that pursuit go a little quicker."
Bradley had struggled to break into the starting lineup with Roma this season, appearing in 11 of their 18 league games, with just five of them as a starter.
And with the Serie A side recently acquiring Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan on loan from Cagliari with an option to buy, Bradley was looking at being the fifth option in manager Rudi Garcia's three-man midfield.