To call Landon Donovan’s loan to Everton a success is to call the Grand Canyon a decent-sized hole. Tthe loan has exceeded everyone’s expectations. Beyond fitting in well from the start, starting every game, scoring one and creating a good handful, winning over the Goodison crowd and being several commentators’ Man of the Match in Everton’s upset of Chelsea this week, Landon has proved it all in only six weeks.
So, now what?
The most important questions is whether Donovan wants to stay at Everton. I possess no portal into Landon’s brain, but I am sure he wants to stay. As the saying goes, how do you keep the girl down on the farm once she has seen Paris? He has played with great players, against great players in a pulsating atmosphere with a bunch of ‘Tonians chanting “USA, USA, USA” every time he goes to take a corner kick. How do you beat that? With all due respect to my fellow Galaxy supporters, you don’t beat it at the Home Depot Center.
Moreover, I sense that he does not want to just stay in Europe – he wants to stay at Everton. Donovan is the type of individual that craves the comfort that comes from predictability. Having integrated himself into the Everton scheme and found himself a home on the right side of their midfield, Donovan does not have a wandering eye. He likes to be comfortable around his teammates, have a rapport with the fans, and know who his manager is going to be for the foreseeable future. Everton has fit that bill, and manager David Moyes shares Donovan’s aversion to personality drama. Moyes likes players who put their heads down and work hard, and Donovan likes being that type of player.
So if Landon is going to stay, how does that happen? Luckily, last year’s fiasco with David Beckham and the loan move to AC Milan provides a primer in what not to do. Last year, Beckham essentially arranged a loan to Milan for himself and summarily informed the Galaxy, and then from the beginning began agitating in the press about his desire to make it permanent. The Galaxy are owned by the Anschutz Entertainment group, and Philip Anschutz , one of the wealthiest men in America, did not make his money by giving in to such nonsense. He had Beckham under contract and proved himself entirely unmoved by Beckham’s protestations. Although Beckham’s loan was extended for a couple of months and renewed this season, there is little doubt that Beckham will play out his Galaxy contract and is likely to end his career in a Galaxy shirt.
Donovan has handled his situation completely differently. He renegotiated his Galaxy contract with a loan deal in mind. There are rumors that a buyout clause was included in the contract. If that is true, neither Donovan, Moyes , nor the Galaxy are saying anything about it in public. In fact, all three parties are saying as little as possible about the future other than talking about honoring the loan agreement.
I would expect Donovan to go back to the Galaxy in March and play with them until the National Team convenes in May. After the World Cup, things will get interesting. I am sure that Everton would like to buy him immediately and have him start the EPL season in blue. I am sure the Galaxy would want to keep him for the rest of the MLS season, milk any post-World Cup buzz and tickets sales the National Teams happens to garner, and agree to sell Donovan in January. My crystal ball is not so clear as to know which route will be taken, but it will be one or the other.
I have seen on various Everton web sites how many commenters find it curious that many Americans (but certainly not all) actually want Donovan to go to Everton. As a Galaxy season ticket holder, I can give my perspective. It does not come from any inferiority complex about the state of soccer in America. As someone who has watched Donovan play more games than I can remember, I know that he has nothing left to prove in MLS. I will miss watching him play live, but watching him torture Ashley Cole on TV the other day was just simply a lot of fun. A couple of times, it actually made me laugh.
Watching Donovan spend another season ripping up the back line of the Kansas City Wizards or the Colorado Rapids will not be nearly as entertaining. Moreover, I think Landon Donovan probably feels the same way.