It’s been a busy summer for former US soccer player Landon Donovan. In addition to being the shining star for FOX Sports’ coverage of Copa America, the player who The Guardian named as the best American footballer of all time became a part owner of Swansea City.
Donovan took time out of his busy schedule for a phone interview with World Soccer Talk where he discussed his role at the only Premier League club in Wales, as well as his thoughts about the upcoming season.
“I have more of a behind the scenes type of role,” said Donovan. “I give the new owners a lot of credit because they reached out and said ‘Listen, We’re smart enough to know that we don’t know a lot about football in the UK and don’t know a lot about football in general, so we’d like you to be one of our resources.’
“Huw Jenkins, the chairman of Swansea, doesn’t need me giving him advice of what to do. He’s literally built this team from scratch into a top 10 Premier League club for the last 5 years. He’s done a remarkable job. If I can help in any way, if there’s a player he needs to know about and need more info on, maybe I’ve played with the player, or against. Or I know people who have played with or against him, I can help behind the scenes. I just want to be helpful. It’s a real enjoyable role for me.”
Asked whether he might be able to recommend a player to Swansea who plays in North America, Donovan replied “Absolutely, but I’m also cautious because it has to be the right player. At a team like Swansea, you can’t just have a player there because they happen to be American or Mexican or Brazilian or Chinese. You need the right player. If there’s a player that fits in all ways, including a marketability standpoint in helping build the brand, then that’s great. But again, those aren’t my decisions. Those are decisions that Huw [Jenkins] and the ownership have to make. If I can help and give advice, then I want to be of help.”
Donovan hasn’t had a chance to visit Swansea yet, but plans on doing so next month for the club’s game against Chelsea in mid September.
“From what I’ve heard from Jason Levien, Steve Kaplan and Sam Porter, who are three of the owners, they told me early on that Swansea is a beautiful place on the water and there’s great people there,” said Donovan. “I’ve been wanting to go now for quite a while but I look forward to the chance to go and spend some time there.”
The Swansea team that Donovan will watch in September will be a much different one that finished last season. Donovan is optimistic about the Swans’ current strengths, but also knows there are opportunities for players to rise up to fill voids left behind.
“Losing Ashley Williams is a big loss,” Donovan said. “He was the heartbeat of the team. He was the captain and leader. And the fans loved him. It was difficult to see him go but he really wanted a new challenge. I give Huw [Jenkins] and the ownership a lot of credit because a lot of clubs in that situation would say that ‘No, you’re our captain, you’re staying here.’ He really wanted to go and they allowed him to go. That’s going to leave a void, there’s no question.
“When there’s an opening, you need someone to step in and take it. Losing Andre Ayew is a big loss as well but he too wanted to go and they allowed that to happen. Bringing in Borja Baston and Fernando Llorente will hopefully help fill that void. It’s going to be a different season. The fans are going to see the team look a little different. But there’s still a strong group of players.
“Jack Cork now can probably step more into a leadership role. Gylfi Sigurdsson can as well. And obviously the hope is that it all works out well.”
Donovan spoke to World Soccer Talk from Bradenton, Florida where he’s been working with talented youngsters at the IMG Academy in association with Gatorade’s Beat The Heat educational program.
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