Bob Bradley: French leagues good place for Americans to develop
Former United States coach Bob Bradley says France is a good country for American players to develop their talents.
Bradley is manager of Ligue 2 side Le Havre, who currently occupy one of three promotion places with six games left to play. Having been in his new role since November, the 58-year-old says that the French league remains an interesting and varied destination for American players who want to further their careers in Europe.
U.S. international Alejandro Bedoya plays for Nantes in Ligue 1, while Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes and Saint-Etienne), Charlie Davies (Sochaux) and Oguchi Onyewu (Metz) have also played in France.
"So if you take 'Gooch' and then Carlos and Charlie and now Alejandro, all of them have had very, very good experiences here," Bradley told ESPN FC. "And all those guys did well for themselves. So I think France is still a great football nation because there's passion and again there's an incredible diversity of talent... The backgrounds of the players still are different.
"You think of the great French teams and of course in '98 that team [that won the World Cup] was really a celebration of multiculturalism that showed what happens when on the field great players with talent and different backgrounds can all come together in the right way."
Overall, Bradley feels the U.S. national team will always need to be made up of a combination of players plying their trade abroad and those who are thriving in Major League Soccer.
"I believe you need a mix," he said. "I always have. I think that every player has to figure out what's best at each particular part of his career. There's been examples of guys that started overseas and then came back. There's examples of guys that have started in MLS and left. So each situation is different.
"I think that in MLS, if you look over the years, some coaches, some clubs, have done a good job moving players along. I always took pride from the time I was in Chicago, and then MetroStars and Chivas [USA], with the idea that if we had the right young players, if we had a really good environment, that we could get them into the first-team and that those players could develop."
From his own experience, Bradley cites the likes of Bocanegra, DaMarcus Beasley, Brad Guzan, Sacha Kljestan and his own son Michael Bradley as players who have gone on to have good careers because they were given an early chance to shine in the right conditions.
"I still think that there are good examples of coaches in MLS that do that well," he added. "And I think there are other situations where that's not still at the level it needs to be.
"Academies help but, again, work on the Academy has to be done right. And the same is true in Europe. There are clubs that I would recommend. Michael left just as he turned 18, his first stop was [Dutch club] Heerenveen. It was a really good first step for him in Europe -- a club that understood how to develop players. A club that wasn't afraid to play young players.
"So in every case, whether you stay at home or whether you think 'you know what, this is the time to leave,' finding a club that sees your talent and has the ability to work with young talent and move it forward I think is very, very important in this whole thing."
Mark covers European football for ESPN FC. Twitter: @mrodden