Why Donovan Belongs In The EPL

RUSTENBERG, June 27, 2010 Landon Donovan of the United States celebrates his goal during the 2010 World Cup round of 16 soccer match against Ghana at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa, on June 26, 2010.

The American sporting public, still high  on a sucessful World Cup, has turned it’s attention towards its biggest star and his plans for the future. Landon Donovan, now the most famous American soccer player of all time thanks to his dramatic goal against Algeria, is currently the captain of the L.A. Galaxy and the poster boy for MLS. It has been widely suspected that he will soon leave the sunny shores of California for one of Europe’s top leagues, preferably the EPL where Donovan enjoyed a successful loan stint with Everton.

But MLS commissioner Don Garber has become a roadblock in such a move, claiming that he would block any transfer offer for Donovan. Since it is baseball season and journalists and pundits are grasping for something, anything to talk about, where Donovan belongs has become a topic of much debate across sporting media platforms. As fun as it is to watch “experts” on programs like Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption flounder in their knowledge of the world’s most popular game, their incredibly ignorant opinions are endangering the growth of American soccer by advocating the handcuffing of our most marketable star.

On today’s PTI, Bob Ryan, the old and crotchety columnist for the Boston Globe, scoffed at Donovan’s credentials saying, “two goals in 13 games at Everton. That’s a big, big deal? No.” Nevermind that two goals in 13 games is stellar production from a outside midfielder but Donovan’s pace, passing and defense made him Everton’s “Player of the Month” in January and the Everton faithful were desperate to keep him until the end of the EPL season. Ryan then went on to say that in order for the American sport to grow our top players need to play in their country of origin.

But let’s apply that theory to some other players to apply their sporting trade in the United States. Would basketball be bigger in China if Yao Ming had stayed in Asia? What about Pau Gasol and Spain? Baseball is now one of the biggest sports in Japan because their star player, Ichiro Suzuki, became an all-star in the top baseball league in the world. The list goes on and on. Alex Ovechkin and Russia, David Ortiz and the Dominican Republic, etc.

Can you imagine Didier Drogba or Michael Essien getting flack for wanting to come to the EPL rather than play in Africa? Even countries with legitimate soccer leagues like the Netherlands and Russia are eager to ship their stars out to one of the big four leagues to make their countries proud. It’s American arrogance that says if we play a sport the top league must be here or else we want no part of it. But the fact is we will never be able to compete with the likes of the EPL, La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga because we don’t have the Champions League and soccer will always be behind baseball, football and basketball.

So instead of trying to turn the MLS into the top league in the world by bringing high-priced retirees into the fold, Garber and Co. should take a lesson from leagues in Brazil and Holland. Awknowledge that the best thing for your fans is to develop solid talent, send them to highly competitive leagues, and let your national pride come from the national teams. So far the MLS has shown itself as a reputable developmental league, churning out players like Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard but will never be able to do its job properly and develop young, American talent until they let go of their delusions of grandeur.

I’m not an MLS hater, I enjoy it in the same way I enjoy my local minor league baseball team. I’ll cheer them on and love it when they win but what brings me the most pride is when they move on to the major leagues and show how good players from my area can be. So let Donovan go to the EPL, to Everton if possible, and aid in the long, arduous task of overturning public sentiment towards the American player, in a league Americans actually watch.

You can follow John Boschini at twitter.com/Johnbo01

26 thoughts on “Why Donovan Belongs In The EPL”

  1. Yep I watched Around the Horn and PTI today and Jackie MacMullan didn’t know that Landon plays for the Galaxy…

    1. haha I watched those shows also today. The majority said he should stay, but I don’t think they understand just how terrible MLS is when compared to the Premier League. If i was a kid, I would want my favorite US soccer player to play in the best league in the world. It gives Landon far more credibility than he would get if he stays here. Americans need to show the world that we have some players who can not only play at the top level, but also succeed. Only this will draw more attention to soccer for the country and the kids, which will make more of them play, which will in turn improve MLS over time and make it that in the future, players like Landon would choose MLS over EPL.

    2. At first, I was glad that the types on PTI were at least trying to focus on soccer. But they really REALLY need someone to teach them a thing or two about the game. Kornheiser is a constant embarrassment in his knowledge of the game and they both seem to only ever be attracted to the tawdry stories, most of them involving Maradona. Reali seems pretty savvy, but he gets about 20 seconds per show.

      Sometimes, when it comes to coverage from these guys, I want to say thanks, but no thanks…

      1. Soccer coverage in the US reflects the old chicken-and-egg dilemma. The big time sports columnists and talking heads on shows such as Around the Horn are veterans who have become well known in their professions, some for good reasons, Bob Ryan is a good writer and very knowledgeable about the NBA and to a less extent baseball. However, he and the other established sports media types came of age when soocer in the US was primarily limited to certain ethnic communities, The real question is whether or not younger writers and broadcasters with an interest in and knowledge of soccer will assume high profile positions in sports writing and punditry. I suppose that will depend on professional soccer becoming more popular in the US, once again raising the chicken-and-egg theory.

  2. I would agree with you that Donovan/the U.S.’s best interest is for him to go abroad and your comparison of other sports and their foreign stars is applicable, but baseball was a huge sport in Japan well before Ichiro came to Seattle. The same goes for hockey in Russia. Hockey has always been Russia’s most popular sport.

    1. No argument from me. I’m not saying Ichiro and Ovechkin created sports or rose them from the dead. But now Americans know about Japanese baseball and the goldmine of talent in eastern Asia. Ichiro proving himself in the world’s best league has raised the credibility of Japanese baseball abroad and, I would assume, moved baseball up the pecking order when young athletes are choosing their sport of choice. My hope is that if Donovan does well he inspires our young athletes to pursue soccer instead of basketball, baseball or football. I don’t think he can do that as effectively in MLS.

  3. I completely agree with this article and I hope Donovan goes to either Man City or back to Everton. And to me its disappointing that ESPN put so much money in getting the rights to the World Cup, but on their shows like PTI, Around the Horn, and Sportsnation they have hosts like Bob Ryan and Colin Cowheard who are to ignorant to know the basics of soccer. I think that because they don’t like soccer, they give people who are interested in it the impression that its a pointless sport.

  4. trust me you don’t want Donovan going to Man City
    i’ll rather see him at Manchester United……or Everton or Liverpool
    he could find a starting shirt @ any one of the 3
    since Chelsea,Arsenal,Manchester City,Arsenal are out of the equation.

    just imagine having to go up against
    in a 4-5-1

  5. If Donovan signs with City, he’ll virtually never see the pitch. Conversely, if he signs with Everton he’ll be an instant starter, based on his performance during his last loan spell.

    Donovan’s the best player in the USA, but he’s not an international superstar. He’ll do quite well at Everton, but he’d struggle to make any sort of an impact in a high-priced, star-loaded side like Citeh.

    Plus, I hate Citeh. Stick with Everton, Landycakes.

  6. LD needs to go back to the Prem in the winter break.
    Everton, Fulham someone like that no better or cash richer.
    He needs to go somewhere he’s gonna play.
    He’s on $2M in the MLS plus his endorsements are going to blow up after the WC.
    So someone is going to have to offer him a pretty sweet deal.

    1. ESPN aired a show in the US called Homecoming where they focused on Landon Donovan’s past acheivements and teams he played on. While trying not to put down the Galaxy, his prefrence for Everton was clear.

  7. im a galaxy and mls supporter first so im greedy and i want him to stay but if he left i would understand and not feel bitter. don’t get me wrong i love the epl but our domestic league must keep growing every year and not settle like other feeder leagues. for europeans to understand this imagine if it was the other way around would you support more mls or the epl thats trying to grow every year. i thought so.

  8. Are you kidding?

    Getting Ovechkin signed to the KHL would be a huge marketing and morale booster for the KHL, the second best league in the world. It might encourage future Russians to stay close to home. Your analogy with Ortiz and the Dominican Republic is correct.

    And the MLS is more like a KHL than it is a league in the Dominican republic. A country of 300 million, including many latinos with bringing with them a culture of the sport, as well as 30 million Canadians is not small time. The MLS might not be a big deal now, but you can’t have that many people in such a wealthy country and not have a future powerhouse league on your hands.

    Keep Donovan until the seasons done and World cup interest has faded. Then let him get better overseas.

  9. As a side note, the CONCACAF champions league is more entertaining than one would think, and supporting MLS sides through it is fun.

  10. I’m not sure what will happen first; Landon being allowed a permanent transfer to EPL or DirecTV picking up FSC in HD…


  11. Personally I don’t understand why L Donovan signed a new contract with the MLS only a few months ago. If he had ANY intention of moving abroad, I don’t understand why he wouldn’t have let his contract run down, and then see what offers he received as a free agent. Or even if he wanted to stay in MLS, he would have been better to put his contract talks on hold until AFTER the World Cup so he could use his WC performances as leverage to get an even better contract from the MLS. I just don’t see the advantages of signing that contract earlier this year.

    The contract essentially handcuffs him to the MLS, since I can’t see many European teams agreeing a transfer fee with MLS, because their respective valuations are so far apart. To the MLS, he’s arguably THE marquee player within their league, so they would want HUGE money for any transfer. On the other hand, to most European teams, he’s a decent player who might command a moderate transfer fee (eg 5-7m GBP). And I can’t see the MLS letting him go for that price.

    The real risk is that the only team that would match the MLS’s valuation, and probably see it as just chump-change, is Man City. And they’re so rich they would happily pay that even for a player who they will leave on the bench every week.

  12. With all due respect Mr. Boschini, rubbish!

    Your article smacks of the condescension of the Euro-Snob. Lets take a closer look at some of your arguments.

    You mention players from around the world and ask if their respective sports would be bigger if they had stayed in their home country. That is the wrong question, the better question is would their sports be any smaller. Japan was baseball crazy for years before Suzuki came to the United States. Indeed, American teams have played Japanese teams in exhibitions for years prior to his coming to the United States. Likewise Baseball had been going so strong in the Dominican Republic that they had been sending players to MLB for 40 years prior to Ortiz’s debut. Indeed it is hard to believe that baseball has really benefitted in either country based on the singular success of those two players. Likewise, I am not sure if the Japanese appreciate their best players being poached by MLB.

    You take for granted that soccer will never eclipse football, baseball or basketball in popularity. Now I am not claiming this is something that is likely in the next 5 to 10 years, but then again, in 1950, no one would have expected baseball to be eclipsed by football or to have basketball become a major league sport at all. Yet, if this recently completed World Cup proved anything, its that for the right reasons, Americans are willing to watch soccer in large numbers. Given enough time and the right promotion, I can see soccer drawing TV ratings comparable to the NBA and stadium attendance comparable to MLB.

    You claim it is American arrogance to want the best league in the world or nothing at all. But is that what America really wants? Or does it really want to build an excellent professional league that is competitive with the best in the world?

    I wonder what Brazilians might think about your argument that the best thing for them is for them to send their players to Europe? You do realize that Pelé and the most prominent members of the Brazilian National Team that won the world cup three times between 1958 and 1970 played in Brazil for most if not all of their international careers.

    Lets be honest here, Brazilian and Dutch players go to the big four European Leagues for one reason, Money. Brazil is a large country, but still relatively poor. The Netherlands is a relatively rich country, but is small. Neither country can support a large league that can pay the sorts of salaries as the largest countries in Europe. America on the other hand has a per capita GDP almost 5 times that of Brazil and a Population that approaches that of Western Europe! We have the resources to back a world class league if Americans get interested enough in the sport. Indeed, I expect if Brazil’s per-Capita GDP was up towards what is the norm in Western Europe, that they would be pulling talent from Europe, not the other way around.

    In the long run, its difficult to see how the United States will continue to develop as a soccer country if the MLS does not grow into a truly popular league.

    Now, all this being said… I think it would certainly be to Landon Donovan’s advantage to be in a major European team (i.e., better salary, will be able to test himself against better players, etc.). I can even see an argument being made that him spending more time in Europe will help him make American soccer better. I don’t, however, see sending every American soccer star to Europe as a way of increasing soccer’s popularity in this country.

  13. The argument that Landon needs to go to England to develop really doesn’t matter anymore, as Landon will be 32 when Brazil ’14 rolls around, and the USA will be in serious trouble if he (as a winger) is in the picture at that age.

    He can continue to go on loan for 3-6 months every year.

  14. i think when you say big four you really messed up with saying the ligue 1. The serie a is still on top of the them in history and trophies.

  15. Nice article. I agree with you wholeheartedly, it’s unfair to Donovan and uninspiring to up and comers to know that success is rewarded by restraints.

    The American sporting public, still high on a sucessful World Cup,…

    Have some pride in the content though man…it’s the first sentence.

    1. The thing is that is a risk you take when you sign a contract. Generally, no team has to transfer away their best players. They generally do it only if they see an advantage (i.e., they can make a bunch of money, or they can save a bunch of money on a player they believe is entering their twilight years).

  16. I feel bad for Landon

    He will never be that much of a world star staying in the MLS yet will not be able to move during the prime of his career due to the MLS and their fantasy dream that they will become relevant in the world

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