As Landon Donovan continues to make an impact on the blue half of Merseyside, we are starting to read the first reports of Everton’s desire to make the short-term loan a permanent move.
This weekend, Donovan made another start for the Toffees, playing the first 75 minutes of Everton’s visit to Wigan Athletic. Donovan was out of the match when Tim Cahill scored Everton’s only goal in their 1-0 victory, moving them into ninth place in the English Premier League.
Donovan’s fifth appearance (fourth in league) was decent if non-descript, yet it provided further evidence of the American’s quick assimilation into the league. The biggest of piece of that evidence: Donovan again starting ahead of winger Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, who had a successful run of matches before Donovan was brought in. Though it is too soon to say whether he has done this: Unseating the Russian international would be an accomplishment.
While Mikel Arteta’s continuing recovery may make it difficult for Donovan to continue seeing as much playing time, a permanent move for the Galaxy attacker would help Everton with the depth problem they have been plagued by over the last two seasons. But even if Everton and Donovan desire to make the deal permanent, Major League Soccer may not be on the same page.
Everton does not have a lot of money to spend. They have shied away from big signings, recently elected to sell center half Lucas Neill on the cheap, and have to deal with limited revenue streams, streams restricted by Goodison Park.
The purchase price quoted in the linked article is surprisingly low. A £3 million offer (about $4.8 million) would make it difficult for Major League Soccer to sell one of their two most marketable players.
At the same time, how much more should Everton be expected to play? At the end of this short-term loan, Donovan will be 28-years-old. That combined with Donovan’s limited history of club success outside of the United States supplies the logic behind the figure. Unfortunately, that logic ignores Major League Soccer has little incentive to sell Donovan for so little.
There are a couple of other issues which could affect a potential sale.
Donovan has nothing tying him to Merseyside. This loan could develop into an audition for a club with the resources to meet Major League Soccer’s potential demands. A club like Birmingham City with relatively new owner Carson Yeung is better situated to meet MLS’s evaluation, and with Birmingham City standing a good chance to finish above Everton in the league, this hypothetical could see Donovan (by some points of view) in a better place for the 2010-11 season, should he want to stay in England.
There are other clubs – clubs where Donovan would could play immediately – that might meet a demand that reflects MLS’s evaluation of Donovan. Sunderland has spent money in recent summers, and if a team like Newcastle comes up from the Championship, they could spend money. Wigan has made a habit out of dipping into CONCACAF, and would it be shocking to see Fulham strengthen their United States’ brand, should Donovan continue to perform well in the Premier League?
All it takes is one team to be excited enough about Donovan to help MLS offset the loss of one of their marque players. My feeling is that £8 million – or just short of $13 million – could get it done, provided Donovan makes it clear he wants to move.
That would be a large payout for Donovan. As a point of reference, Maxi Rodríguez just moved from Atlético Madrid to Liverpool. Only one year older than Donovan though playing a similar position (and having had much more club success than Donovan), Rodríguez moved on a free transfer.
In a final irony, Donovan’s decision (predicament) harkens back to last year, when David Beckham went on his first loan to AC Milan. Beckham’s dalliance with the Rossoneri made him the target of anger upon returning to Los Angeles.
Donovan is unlikely to face such intense criticism, though some supporters are already expressing dissatisfaction with the idea that he would leave the domestic league.
How he handles the process of moving to England will determine if that dissatisfaction calcifies into scorn. Beckham was viewed as two-faced by Galaxy fans.
If he is intent on trying to jump to England, Donovan should learn from what that to which Beckham was subjected. Donovan needs to be transparent about his intentions.
Though even that policy, should he want to move, will not placate everybody.