December 16, 2011
By Michael Lewis
An Everton loan isn't good enough for Donovan, but a permanent move is
When I heard that Landon Donovan was going to return to Everton, I got excited.
Landon Donovan should go to Everton on a permament loan.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Finally, he was going to meet a greater challenge than Major League Soccer.
When I heard that the U.S. National Team standout and LA Galaxy midfielder was on a two-month loan with the English Premier League side, I was quite disappointed.
Well, I guess a couple of slices from a loaf of bread is better than crumbs or nothing at all.
But if Donovan is to stretch himself and get even better -- yes, there is always room for improvement -- he must play regularly in a top league across the pond, and the EPL is the right place for him.
Donovan, who turns the big 3-0 on March 4, is still at the top of his game. If he doesn't go now, you never know when or if he will. Players on the other side of 30, however talented they may be, show a decline in their ability, not necessarily their skills, but in speed and quickness, which is essential to success in these fast-moving times. In other words, earning power goes down as well.
There is no doubt Donovan still has it. In the MLS Cup, it did not seem that Donovan was playing at 100 percent after coming back from a recent injury. But he still accomplished enough to score the lone goal in a 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. That's the mark of a great player and a great champion.
What does Donovan have to prove in Major League Soccer?
He has won four titles and has scored something like 115 goals in 255. He is the best player the United States has to offer, without a doubt.. How many more new, serious challenges does Donovan have left in the states?
There is a comfort level playing in MLS because of Donovanís superior talent.
Whether it is Bayer Leverkusen, Everton or another team, not so much.
When Donovan performed at Everton on loan two years ago prior to the South Africa World Cup, he made an impact. Beyond scoring two goals in 10 games, he earned the Toffees' supporters respect and admiration for consistent and productive performances. That he achieved that over a short time was great for him and an advertisement for American players.
The next obvious step would be a permanent move to a club, and Everton looks like a perfect fit.
I'm hoping, really hoping, that somewhere in this agreement between the Galaxy, Donovan and Everton is a clause that would allow a permanent transfer to become real.
Since I tweeted my opinion on Thursday that Donovan needs to play in Europe, I received responses essentially asking a similar question.
Here is one that RealSlickRick put to me:
Does MLS need its stars to play overseas or to keep its stars here to keep the growth growing?
Players must be allowed to spread their wings and see how far they can go. If they can't hack it, they can always return home. It happened to a player named Landon Donovan when he wasted away as a reserve with Bayer Leverkusen a decade ago. He came back to that Bundesliga club years later, struggled and returned to MLS.
There are many examples of MLS standouts who were not allowed to even face those challenges during their prime time; players such as the New England Revolution's Taylor Twellman and Shalrie Joseph certainly come to mind.
While Donovan has shown he can play at a high level in the EPL, his soccer career and legacy won't be complete unless he does it over a longer span.
And I know he has the ability to do.
The question begs whether he wants to do it.