Often I view the end of the European soccer season as a silly time, because every player with any talent (and some without) are rumored to be acquired by one club or another. This speculation extends to MLS because the league has shown that it is capable of developing talent and playing a high level of soccer. This is a long way of saying that I think most of the stuff I read on the Internet regarding transfers is trash.
But I can believe this story.
Goal.com’s Alex Labidou is reporting that AS Roma is set on acquiring Landon Donovan from the LA Galaxy this summer. The story is based on a rumor contained in the Italian paper Corriere dello Sport. I Giallorossi are sixth in Serie A and ownership has pledged to its fans that the team will overhaul with a goal of contending for a scudetto. That owner is Thomas DeBenedetto, an American businessman who recently purchased the club.
What would Donovan give Roma? The team is certainly weaker in midfield, with their best player there being Daniele De Rossi. The club’s strength is with their forwards but their leading scorer is injury-prone Francesco Totti, who is 34. Donovan would provide some offense from the midfield and could pair well with Marco Borriello and Mirko Vucinic (if any of them stay). The key is who will be the next manager – Vincenzo Montella is a caretaker and DeBennedetto may want to make a big splash with a big-name hire.
Off the pitch the move would be a great idea. The Roma ownership group could take the most marketable American soccer player and use him to sell more Roma merchandise. While Donovan Giallorossi shirts may not outsell Kobe Bryant jerseys, Donovan’s presence on the team would allow Roma to enter the American soccer consciousness and attract some casual soccer fans.
This is by no means a slam dunk, however. Acquiring Donovan would be a considerable cost. Labidou speculates Donovan’s transfer fee would be around $15 million and his salary would likely increase from its current $2.3 million. Even more critical than the money is the Serie A rule limiting the number of non-EU passport holding players. As a result of the disastrous 2010 World Cup, the Italian club presidents set a limit of one non-EU passport holder per club as a way to encourage teams to develop Italian talent. The loopholes allow teams to circumvent this rule, but Donovan could not and Roma would be unable to sign additional talent from outside of Europe.
There’s also the factor of Donovan’s age and past record that make this a questionable signing. He is approaching 30 years old, an age when few players improve. Outside of his Everton playing time, Donovan has also not been able to turn his MLS success to success in European leagues. Could Donovan adjust to Serie A’s style of play, which is vastly different than MLS and the English Premier League?
And as is the case with any rumor, there is more to the story. Brian Zygo shares that Roma is reportedly also looking at Michael Bradley, another American international but one who at 23 is seen as a rising star. Bradley might make more sense for Roma because while he does not have the Q rating Donovan has, he could one day be a big name if he succeeds on the national team. For a cheaper price, you’d also be getting a player with continental experience who plays a similar position.
During the winter, Landon Donovan said he would not be going out on loan in order to take some much needed time off and to refocus on his career. The question becomes is he now ready to try and make his name in Europe again. Becoming the American face of an Italian franchise is a tempting possibility and it would give him the chance to prove again he is good enough for the top leagues in Europe. But the Galaxy are winning and he has a chance to win an MVP trophy, Golden Boot, and an MLS Cup. Will Landon Donovan go to Rome? I have my doubts, but I would not be surprised.