Landon Donovan’s Last Shot

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Landon Donovan is poised to give it another shot. The legendary American footballer who has had more of an impact on Major League Soccer than any other American player this decade is heading abroad, again. This time, Donovan is headed to Merseyside to play on loan for struggling Everton.

If Donovan is ever going to make it in Europe, it will be for an outstanding manager like David Moyes, at a club like Everton. But his game needs to be refined to succeed in the brutal climate of northern England during the winter. The narrow pitches that dominate the Premiership, and the regular rain of Merseyside, require a specific skill set to succeed, and that is a skill set Donovan has yet to demonstrate.

Donovan is considered by this writer among the ten most influential international footballers on the planet. But as a club footballer, his impact is probably not even in the top five hundred, given his previous failures at the top level of competition. Club and International football are two entirely different things: for example, while I consider Didier Drogba and Andreas Iniesta to be in the top ten worldwide for both club and country, I would consider Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo, top ten club footballers but outside the top 25 as far as international play.

Similarly, Andrei Arshavin, Robinho and Michael Ballack contend for top ten honors on the international stage but with the exception of Arshavin (who is probably a top 25 club player but not top ten), the others named are arguably outside the top fifty for club football.

Donovan’s reputation in the United States is based on his international success, while skepticism about him in Europe is largely based on his club failures. Major League Soccer is not considered a top tier league by the majority of pundits in Europe. Thus Donovan’s numerous accomplishments in the American domestic circuit simply reinforce for a number of European analysts that MLS is of a low standard.

Donovan’s previous stints in Europe at Bayer Leverkusen and FC Bayern (Munich) have been nothing short of embarrassing for the proud player. At Leverkusen, Donovan turned in what some analysts consider the single worst performance in the history of the UEFA Champions League in a match against Liverpool.

After that match, Kicker and Bild magazine, the most prominent voices of German Fussball (Football), heaped scorn on the American. On Donovan’s return to Germany, earlier this year to feature for FC Bayern, skepticism reigned once again.

Despite being more mature than when he was at Leverkusen, Donovan failed to make an impact in Bavaria and was returned to MLS after just two and a half months.  More disturbing than his performances for Bayern, is the asking price Major League Soccer has reportedly put on the player.

According to various reports, the league wants $10 million to part with Donovan’s services on a permanent basis. While many American fans have described this price tag as a “bargain,” the truth is in terms of the European transfer market, no big club is going to pay that kind of money for a twenty seven year old who is perceived as a failure on the club level.

Donovan’s age works against him ever getting another shot in Europe after this stint at Everton. His reputation in Europe is poor, and without serious rehabilitation in this loan stint, he’s destined to see out his career in MLS.

Let’s hope for the good of American soccer, Donovan passes the Premier League test with flying colors. But pardon me, while I view this latest move by Donovan with skepticism.

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