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Is Los Angeles headed for a battle with Donovan?


Whether you want to call it simply a case of a team saying what its fans wanting to hear, or an actual case of battle lines being drawn, Landon Donovan’s very public desire to make a move to Europe could be leading Donovan and the Galaxy toward a showdown.

Donovan has stated repeatedly and very clearly in recent days and weeks that he wants to go to Europe. He feels it is time to make the move and is eager to leave this winter. Galaxy president Tim Lieweke and head coach/general manager Bruce Arena have both stated that Donovan isn’t going anywhere.

"I believe that landon Donovan is going to be playing with the LA galaxy in March," Arena said on Thursday. "The words that Tim Lieweke said on Monday are accurate.

"We’re again adamant about the fact that we’ve got to get this club headed in the right direction," Arena said. "One of the easiest ways to get that accomplished is to have two great players like beckham and donogcan on the field.

"We certainly desire, want and demand that they’re going to be playing with us in march."

While you certainly can’t blame the Galaxy for wanting to keep their best player, there is also the fact that Donovan has given the Galaxy four years and an MLS Cup title and wants to leave. Can the Galaxy really just ignore that and try to play hardball?

It might seem like Donovan doesn’t have much of a say since his contract has multiple league options, but he certainly can let his unhappiness be known and could start making things difficult? How? Take the U.S. national team for example. Next summer the U.S. team will play in two tournaments, the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Confederations Cup. Donovan could choose to play in both, as well as in any other FIFA calendar date friendly, rather than asking to be left off of national team rosters to play for the Galaxy, which he has done in the past.

Something else to consider is what a battle over Donovan wanting to leave could do to the league’s image among American soccer players. Are top Americans really going to lock themselves in to long term contracts knowing that they will have no say in future tranfer possibilities? Will MLS consider this and consult with the Galaxy?

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Donovan transfer situation is the possibility that the Galaxy might have no other choice but to sell him. If MLS doesn’t increase the salary cap by a considerable amount, and doesn’t grant a second designated player slot per team, the Galaxy might find itself without much room to improve the team. LA might have to seriously consider how a Donovan transfer might allow the Galaxy to strengthen the squad in other areas.

It is obvious that Arena and the Galaxy are hoping that the league changes its rules heading into the 2009 season for a variety of reasons, but especially because it would allow the team to keep Donovan.

Will things get ugly? It’s tough to imagine Donovan going too overboard. He has already tempered his statements with the disclaimer that he will have no problem playing for the Galaxy of no transfer deals materialize, but you have to wonder how long it would be before his patience would run out.

What is my take? I’ve always been a proponent of the belief that a player should be allowed to leave if he wants to leave. Selling Donovan and building the team around Beckham might not be the worst strategy in the world, and a potential transfer for Donovan could help fund the rebuilding of an LA roster that needs a massive overhaul.

What do you think of the Donovan transfer situation? Think the Galaxy will grant his wish? Do you see LA playing hardball? Do you think Donovan deserves the chance to leave?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Coming to a theater near you,

    Free Landy

    A movie about a free spirit, wanting to get out of the pond and into the ocean to prove he’s not a wus!

    Followed quickly by the next installment,

    Landy comes home!!

    A story of how the ocean is FULL of bigger better players who don’t back away from tackles and play like men. Landy comes home to the MLS pond, and plays out his days safe from the mean European players who bullied him, wins his 200th MNT cap and goes on to Coach the national team until he’s fired for not getting past the first round at the WC, again.

  2. Fairness and making the most of a deal aren’t characteristics of MLS. They will demand a price that’s way too much for anyone in Europe to meet and then say “We tried to do the deal.” Donovan will stay in MLS through his contract and go to Europe only on a free transfer.

  3. Complete lack of class on the part of the Galaxy. Arena of all people should support Landon. He’s clearly the class of the American MLS crop (only Angel can compete in an all-around category) and needs to be on a bigger stage to see how far his ability can really go.

    The Galaxy are an MLS franchise, a sub-sub-sub-tier of world football. If a Euro club comes calling for Donovan, they should treat it just as if he were getting called up to the big leagues from a minor league program.

    They will still have Beckham, they’ve got Buddle and Gordon, and can *gasp* try to build a fresh base of young talent. Becks isn’t leaving on any permanent basis and is very committed to raising up new generations of football fanatics in the US.

  4. I don’t think it’ll be a “battle.”

    Donovan has said he’d like to go if the right offer came along, but he’s never had a “let me get the hell out of here” attitude about this whole thing.

    I think if AEG asks him, Donovan will stay.

    BTW, stop whining about Donovan being grandfathered. He signed his contract before the Designated Player rule came along. As long as he keeps excercising his renewal option under the same terms that his contract was previously written, legally, there’s nothing MLS could do.

    If MLS tried to force Galaxy to find a DP spot to fit Landon, and Landon didn’t want to be sold, he may actually have a legal case against the league.

  5. I think this is standard practice of all ‘super clubs’: driving up the price.

    $ No you can’t have him

    $$ No we love him so much

    $$$ 20 goals, we can’t possibly do it with out him

    $$$$ SOLD! To man in the suit in the back!

  6. I think Alex is right about where the fee will be. It’ll be interesting, because I think he’s better than many who get bought for more, but American prospects fetch low fees.

  7. My take is that Landon signed a contract without a gun to his head and he was and is paid well above the league max. salary number. He signed this contract long before the DP rule came into effect in the league. I may be jumping the gun a little here as Landon has not said release me or else or I’ll just make your life miserable but he did sign and has a signed contract. One of the major problems in this country is that when one gives his word or signs a contract they feel they can break either one at any time. A prime example of this can be seen in pro sports by select players. Management is just as cupable though as they allow the individual to get away with it. Honor,Principal and your word be dammed just lets make the correct business decision. Landon should live up to his commitment.

  8. They really NEED to let him go if there’s a decent offer. Landon has layed it on the line for the Galaxy time and time again, he deserves to be allowed to leave.

  9. I wonder if he’s already filed a transfer request. The deadline must be coming up pretty close–as I understand it, he has 15 days after the end of the season. But he meets all the other criteria for leaving on a Webster, so I don’t think that the Galaxy or MLS could stop him from leaving if he gets his paperwork in order.

  10. It depends on who wants him. It wouldn’t look very good if Landy (the best U.S. player ever probably) was only wanted by second division sides. It also wouldn’t look good if Landy was wanted by a first division side to fill out the bench (with perhaps exception of certain CL sides in England and Spain). If I were running MLS, my criteria in addition to money would be this: First Division, unlikely to be send down, plus starting XI opportunity or at least “super sub” role. I look at Clint D. as the example. Landy has to have at least as good a situation or I don’t let him go.

  11. To whomever suggested a European team will play $12.5M-$15M for this overrated primadonna (give him Kenny Cooper’s wingers and see how many he scores), I have just one question:

    What on earth are you smoking, and is it legal?

  12. Webster hasn’t been used by any player in the world yet. But, given MLS’s below market salaries and hardball tactics with players this league is just begging to have Webster used against them. And honestly, I hope somebody does use Webster against MLS. This league needs to be held accountable for its policies towards domestic players, and the only way it is going to happen is if the player forces the issue.

  13. The problem is that MLS makes up the “rules”. In Europe, a player’s contract is binding and if the team wishes to be rid of him, and he does not want to go, the team must either a) keep him on the roster and continue to pay him, or B) pay off the remainder of the contract, then cut him. Unlike MLS, they cannot cut him without paying full compensation. MLS? Well … the player must hope Gazidis removed the sand from his vaseline …

  14. I would love to see how Donovan would develop as a player in La Liga. He has the quickness, the eye for the ball and it would be nice to see him have a go at that kind of possession game. He would have to stay at a much more consistent level match to match, but maybe the environment would have an impact on that as well.

  15. Teams always scream about the sanctity of contracts when they don’t want to pay a guy more or let him move to another team. Not so much when they want to dump a guy and not pay him….

  16. He signed the contract so they owe him nothing…

    It would seem to be good business though since MLS does not want to scare away other young players that dream of one day playing in Europe.

  17. i say let him go. This team is a mess and it would be beneficial for them to use the money that will be given to them after he leaves to strengthen this team.

  18. supsam, I hear ya. And Donovan himself has said if LA won’t let him go, he’s not going to pout about it. I really don’t foresee a big public battle.

    But as far as the “don’t contracts mean anything anymore?” Let’s look at AEG and the Galaxy and how they deal with their loyal players. They talk Chris Albright into renegotiating his contract “for the team,” he takes a cut in pay….and they trade him.

    Yeah, don’t contracts MEAN ANYTHING anymore?


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