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Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Michael Bradley's Villa loan spell ends

By Jeff Carlisle
ESPN.com

HOUSTON -- U.S. international midfielder Michael Bradley has said that he understands the decision by Aston Villa not to sign him to a permanent deal.

Ahead of Wednesday's Gold Cup semifinal against Panama, Bradley's agent told ESPN The Magazine that the midfielder was no longer in the EPL club's plans. At the moment, it appears that Bradley will be heading back to the club that holds his contract, Borussia Moenchengladbach, next season.

The decision concludes a disappointing four-month loan spell for Bradley. When he first joined the team at the end of January, he was expected to contend for a starting spot. Instead he made only four appearances as Jean Makoun, Nigel Reo-Coker, and Stiliyan Petrov garnered the vast majority of the minutes in the center of Villa's midfield. Reo-Coker has since departed, but with the manager that brought Bradley on board, Gerard Houllier, resigning, and new manager Alex McLeish coming on board, the U.S midfielder was deemed surplus to requirements.

"The experience at Villa was a good one," Bradley insisted following Tuesday's practice session with the U.S. team. "They're in a little bit of a new situation now with a new manager coming in, and again, it's totally understandable that he's going to be at a new club and that he wants to have his say on the team. On my end it's good to know that. At the end of the day, you don't want to be where they don't want you anyway."

Bradley will now return to a Borussia Moenchengladbach side that has seen a significant turnaround in its fortunes. When Bradley departed, 'Gladbach were mired deep in the Bundesliga's relegation zone. But manager Michael Frontzeck was fired shortly thereafter, and his replacement, Lucien Favre, led the team to an astounding revival that saw them avoid the drop courtesy of a relegation playoff triumph over VfL Bochum.

With 'Gladbach's place in the Bundesliga now secure, it could amount to a soft landing for the U.S. midfielder, although there are rumors that other clubs, including Italian side Roma, are interested in his services. When asked about returning to Germany, Bradley didn't sound completely certain that he'll remain with the team, but is keeping his options open.

"The other stuff will have time to take care of itself," he said. "I've got a year left on my contract there, so we'll see what happens. If something comes up that's good for 'Gladbach and good for me, we'll look at it. Otherwise, [I'll spend] another year at 'Gladbach'."

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN.com.