Landon Donovan is staying put, having agreed to a multi-year contract extension with the Los Angeles Galaxy. After flirting with a European move when his contract expires this winter, Donovan is now prepared to re-up with the Galaxy.
The rumor mill went into overdrive last week when the Galaxy superstar let it be known that he would be willing to listen to offers from European clubs after the season, with reported interest from A.C. Milan garnering the most attention.
However serious Donovan was about playing abroad, he was negotiating with the Galaxy from a position of strength. Clint Dempsey’s mega deal with the Sounders set a high market for an American star in the league and with Donovan coming off of an impressive Gold Cup performance, someone was going to pay up for his services.
“Was this day ever in doubt? Yeah, for a lot of reasons,” Donovan said. “I didn’t know five months ago if I wanted to keep playing much longer. This summer, through a lot of work and through a lot of support from friends, family, the Galaxy, it’s now very clear to me that I want to keep playing. I really enjoy this game. I love it. I’ve found my passion again, and I’m excited about it.”
The Galaxy had to decide whether to keep their marquee player or to pursue a big name international player with Donovan’s expiring Designated Player spot. With Robbie Keane and recently anointed DP Omar Gonzalez already on the books, the Galaxy chose to stay the course as they pursue their third consecutive MLS Cup.
Donovan’s signing is another positive for Major League Soccer, in a year that has seen USMNT international’s Dempsey, Clarence Goodson and Carlos Bocanegra return to league, while Gonzalez, and Kansas City duo Graham Zusi and Matt Besler, like Donovan, elected to stay home, rather than try their luck overseas.
By committing his future to Los Angeles, Donovan puts an end to one of U.S. soccer fandom’s favorite past times, i.e. discussing when and if Donovan should give Europe one last try.
Donovan never settled in Germany when he signed with Bayer Leverkusen in 1999. Leverkusen loaned Donovan to the original San Jose Earthquakes in 2001 where Donovan thrived, winning the first two of his record five MLS Cups. Donovan briefly, and reluctantly, returned to Leverkusen in 2005, playing just seven games before forcing a move back to MLS, this time with the Galaxy.
The Bayer episode gave rise to the perception that Donovan was soft and when a 2009 loan spell to German giants Bayern Munich, with Jurgen Klinsmann as manager didn’t pan out, Donovan’s image took a further blow.
But Donovan was able to bounce back with excellent play for L.A., a starring role for the United States in the 2010 World Cup and two productive loan spells at English Premier League club Everton, where he quickly became a crowd favorite.
The financially strapped Toffees couldn’t afford to sign Donovan, but many Donovan watchers held out hope that he would take one last, full crack at European success. This new deal with the Galaxy all but eliminates that hope, although further loans remain a possibility.
For Donovan it has been quite a year. It began with a morose Donovan taking his famous sabbatical as he questioned his desire to continue playing the sport. Now with the smile returned to his game and Donovan lighting it up for club and country, it appears that the longtime face of Major League Soccer has decided to see out his career in the league where he has always been most at home.
“This is the place I want to end my career,” Donovan said. “I’ve always wanted to be here. I’ve always wanted to play here. When other opportunities arose, they paled in comparison to playing here.”