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Time for MLS and Donovan to get serious
by Ridge Mahoney, December 8th, 2008 5:15PM
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For a few weeks, at least, Bayern Munich and MLS have been discussing what might be done with Landon Donovan: a short-term loan, a longer-term loan, an outright transfer, a transfer with a loan-back clause, etc.

This follows a 10-day trial/training trip/visit by which Bayern and Donovan sampled each other, and presumably by now, Donovan knows how strongly he wants to move to Europe, or specifically, Germany, despite two unhappy stints with Bayer Leverkusen.

His age, 26, and the Galaxy's dreary failure to reach the playoffs the past two seasons is weighing on his mind, not to mention the league's implementation of the Designated Player option, by which certain teams pay players a lot more money than Donovan earns to do a lot less.

Still not known is what Bayern will do with Lukas Podolski, who has been moaning about not starting and by whining publicly is forcing Bayern to field offers and deflect criticism, though general manager Uli Hoeness has stated publicly several times Bayern is not going to sell him. If it gets Donovan on loan, Bayern need not sell Podolski, either to clear a spot on the depth chart or generate funds it could use to purchase Donovan's rights. It would intensify competition between the two for playing time vacated by starting strikers Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose. Donovan could also be used in midfield, though comments from Hoeness and head coach Juergen Klinsmann, a forward of some renown in his playing days, suggest they see him strictly as an option up front.

This works out sweetly for Bayern, but what about MLS and the Galaxy? Coach Bruce Arena has a staggering task ahead of him to revamp the Lost Angelenos, and missing both Beckham and Donovan during preseason won't help. And the possibility that Donovan's loan could be extended or converted into a transfer down the road, or Beckham could invoke a bailout clause following the 2009s season, won't improve the situation.

Whatever benefits Donovan might receive from tougher competition in Bayern's training sessions and its matches would be offset by fatigue and increased chances of injury flying to and fro across the Atlantic for qualifiers and other national-team commitments, should his stay extend beyond mid-March. By his own admission -- and evidence of the past few years backs this up -- he doesn't travel well. And if he's unable to garner regular playing time, a distinct possibility, there won't be much of that competition anyway.

This being Southern California, where entertainment is reality and vice versa, the Donovan saga wouldn't be complete without rumors that his wife, actress Bianca Kaljich, might soon be cut loose by the cancellation of the sitcom "Rules of Engagement," on which she plays one of the leading characters. Could this make her more amenable to a Munich move?

Don't discount the home life of a star soccer player as it affects decisions. Periodically, Barcelona attacker Thierry Henry complains about the distance and logistics that separate him from his daughter, who lives in London with her mother, Henry's former wife. His current locale doesn't prevent Henry from jetting across the Atlantic to catch the occasional Knicks game in New York, of course, but that's another issue.

Great wads of ambiguity are great for speculation and blog hits, but, again, reduce MLS in stature, though not to the extent of the Beckham Do-it-Yourself Clandestine Loan Caper, timed closely to the Previously Unacknowledged and Publicly Denied Three-Year Beckham Bailout Blockbuster.

MLS has kowtowed to Donovan long enough. It bought him back after a flop at Leverkusen on his terms: a spot with the Galaxy, a no-trade clause, and at the time, a higher salary than anybody in the league. If he insists on leaving, which is certainly within reason, MLS should declare negotiations open and invite Bayern, or any other team, to pay it. Donovan would still need to negotiate a salary, and retain the right to reject a transfer to a team he didn't want to join.

Hard as it is to sell a valuable asset, and a phenomenal player, MLS should insist on a transfer, not bandy about loan terms and fees and buy-backs and reciprocal arrangements. It and Donovan should make a decision, and stick to it. For a change.


  1. Adrianne Torres
    commented on: December 8, 2008 at 6:48 p.m.
    Where are you coming from, Ridge, with the MLS should stop kowtowing to Donovan. They're both in this together. MLS knew what they had in Landon Donovan, which is why they brought him back from Leverkusen. It was AEG insisting that LD go to the Galaxy, not him. And right now, the holdup is MLS. Donovan would go to Munich in a heartbeat if they'd let him. He's said he'd even take a paycut. He wants to go.
  1. Scott Nelson
    commented on: December 8, 2008 at 11:42 p.m.
    So for years we ripped LD for being too big a wuss to want to play in Europe, not we rip him because he wants to go? Maybe he's been a bit wishy washy in the past, maybe he wasn't ready in the past, but if he wants to go, then let him. I was disappointed that he didn't succeed in Germany before, but I also applaud the fact that he's determined to give it another try rather than risk having to ask "what if" when he's fat and bald. But leaving an escape clause that leads back to MLS if the third time's not the charm doesn't seem like a bad bit of business for Donovan or the league. He's been a good servant for MLS... he scores, he draws fans..., and MLS has been pretty good to him as well. Why not work cooperatively towards a solution that ultimately could benefit both parties? In considering an accomodation it may be worth looking at the unprecedented 6 month loan deal the All Blacks are doing with Rugby's best player, Dan Carter. Only New Zealand based players are allowed to represent the All Blacks, so New Zealand Rugby is giving him a 6 month sabbatical to get a taste of playing abroad, rather than risk losing him permanently. I'd rather see MLS bending a little (but not over backwards) to accomodate Donovan than lift a finger to help David Goldenballs. If neither of them are still with the Galaxy when the come to Seattle next season, it's Donovan I'll miss.
  1. Roderick Iversen
    commented on: December 10, 2008 at 12:43 p.m.
    Hi Ridge, I really agree with what you are saying 100% and I was talking to someone I played with recently about this. Both of us have the unique perspective of having been some of the first people to play in Europe professionally, when Americans were not respected and opportunities where minimal at best. My thought on this was you are either in or out and as an American or any foreigner part of succeeding in Europe is that terror of knowing that you "have" to make it work or you are done, Land on Donovan always has MLS, but there is a lot at stake for him this time around and I think a player of his caliber needs to be in this kind of a position, I think he could start to lose the respect of his USA teammates abroad if he languishes with the Galaxy much longer and he does not deserve that. I don't think that Landon Donovan "wading" in bit by bit is good for anyone especially him, I feel that MLS, Bayern and Landon Donovan need to do the deal like any other transfer (Josimar Altidore, Freddy Adu) and leave it at that. Bayern should just pay $15 mil and be done with it, what they will get is not potential; they will get right now and probably 8 years from now and a whole lot in between. Landon Donovan is a great player, he is tough as hell both physically and mentally and I think he needs to look at Clint Dempsey or Eddie Lewis as an example of what you need to do and then just put his head down and make it happen, I believe he is the type of player and person who can persevere. Landon Donovan sitting right behind Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni with Ribberey out right is such an inviting thing and because Landon struggled before in Germany I think he will fly under the radar a bit at first and this will give him the opportunity to settle in and emerge on his terms, they will bring him along and late in the season look out. Champions League, Bundesliga, Bayern Munich!!! Are you kidding me?? The biggest challenge for any player going abroad is being accepted, adjusting to the level and style and language, Landon has all that down and he is 26, playing at this level with these kind of players in cooler weather with better facilities and methodology will only prolong his career. Last thing, Landon Donovan does not need to play in every single qualifier, bring him in for Mexico and maybe Costa Rica, at this point we are deep enough where you can spice in all types of players and win and I think Bob Bradley will do this, the team can really see what they are made of at the confederations cup in the summer and I think Landon Donovan has performed well enough for the USA to warrant strategic not constant appearances.

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