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.

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70 Responses to Is Los Angeles headed for a battle with Donovan?

  1. rambo says:

    I think they will let him go for the reasons you stated above:

    1) Has played 4 years and got them a title

    2) Free up some money and get allocations

    3) What other young American players will think. Even though look at Twellman and to an extent Cooper…

  2. Tony in Quakeland says:

    No one has done more for MLS as a player than Donovan. He has been the poster boy for American players in the league a long time and has been the key figure in the MLS Cups, several all star games, and in several of the greatest games in league history (San Jose’s comeback over LA, La vs Red Bulls, etc.)

    Standing in his way would be pathetic and wrong. Yes, a club must protect its interests. But there are times when a club and the league need to acknowledge services rendered and grant the player his wish.

  3. kpugs says:

    How many league options does his contract have? How many more years (if he stayed) would L.A. have two DP players without having two DP slots?

    Even the Red Bulls are only allowed to keep their second DP slot for three seasons. L.A.–if Donovan stayed–would be on pace to have his DP salary grandfathered along for LONGER THAN A TEAM IS ALLOWED TO KEEP A SECOND DP SLOT!


  4. Connor B says:

    I love how LA is waiting this offseason to see if MLS will change the rules to benefit them…again

  5. michael f. says:


    How much of this decision is up to the Galaxy and how much up to the league. I was always under the impression it was the league who decided, oftentimes without the approval of the team. Thanks.

  6. jrnail23 says:

    As a fan of the USMNT, I really hope they let him go. If Landon goes to Europe and succeeds, it’s good for all of US Soccer.

  7. Dannyc58 says:

    When is his contract up? After the 2009 season?

  8. Tony in Quakeland says:


    But West Ham needs him now!

  9. Sammy Nishi says:


    And, the MLS is it’s developmental arm .. .. That’s why we have a league .. ..

    If the US is ever to sneak into a WC Semi’s, LADNON has to leave for Europe now to reap the maximum benefit from his leaving .. ..

    MLS should definitely get the most it can from any transfer, but should NOT price Landon over a decent amount (say $10-12.5M) .. ..

    In fact we should perhaps ‘undervalue’ LANDON a bit so he ends up on a side that is best for him & US MNT and to create a line of bidders to choose from .. ..

    LA has been lucky to have him for as long as we did and everyone wins if he leaves – for the price we all want!!

  10. Robert says:

    Let him go. Seriously. It’s better for MLS, It’s better for LA. It’s better for Landon. It’s even better for TV ratings of Europe games if he goes abroad.

  11. Phillip says:

    It would be shocking if MLS doesn’t allow Landon to leave.

  12. CACuzcatlan says:

    Sammy Nishi, you are way off. MLS has no obligation to help the national team. MLS is not the developmental arm of the national team. Clubs are independent of the national team. They will do what’s in their best interest. In this case, I think it would be in their interest to sell Landon.

  13. Tom P says:


    If you could answer the question posted by michael f. above that would be really helpful. Otherwise everything anyone posts is just uninformed conjecture.

    To repeat:

    “How much of this decision is up to the Galaxy and how much up to the league?”

    Thank you.

  14. KingSnake says:

    Uh oh … She will be throwing her toys out of the pram …

  15. Bob says:

    Hate to see him go, but you cant have two primadonna’s on your team. Either it is Beckman’s team or Donnovan’s team. Let him go and build around Beck, get a better D.

  16. Ulrich says:

    Could this actually be a legal issue? MLS has the right to block Donovan from playing on any other team in MLS/America, but can the contract actually hold up by keeping him from playing in another country that has different labor laws? FIFA may say it does, but if the Bosman Ruling was able to be won, I’d bet this has a chance to also.

    Somebody around the world is going to eventually challange the notion, in court, of being tied to their contracts if they want to leave (When I need a change of venue, I can leave my office by outright quitting/resigning – I may burn a bridge, but I cannot be held at my workplace). I doubt Donovan would push that since he has a wholesome image to maintain as the US Soccer Poster-child, but somebody will eventually.

  17. chicagosoccerguy says:

    Let him go and fulfill his dreams- LA sucks anyhow- even with him, so what’s the difference. Holding a player back is wrong on so many levels

  18. TCompton says:

    Send him overseas, just not to Germany or Italy… Spain would be best for him.

  19. Goalscorer24 says:

    I hope that the Galaxy will let him go, but then again look what happened to Twellman. The Revolution by not letting Twellman go pretty much ruined his career. (And the revolution have not really needed him anyways)I think it is never a good idea to try and make someone do something they don’t really want to do, as ultimately that resentfull energy will have it’s negative effect.

  20. dannyc58 says:

    Tony…i posted that very statement on! he is PERFECT for zolas system

  21. Matt says:

    It’s all about posturing. Like it or not, our managers and owners merely sound like Euro managers and owners when talking about their assets.

    It would do no good from a negotiation standpoint for the Gals or MLS to openly say they’d love to allow LD to leavel; we respect his wishes.

    Suiters have to believe that they will have to spend oodles to pry LD from MLS.

    I think it’s that simple.

  22. TimN says:

    I think the main issue may be his contract. If he would still be under contract, then LA may demand a high transfer fee, and righfully so, as he is one of their best commodities.

    Having said that, I think in the end he will land in Europe, but whatever team gets him may end up spending a little more than they would have liked.

  23. dealer2 says:

    Let him go, and get the few bucks he’s worth from whatever 3rd rate club will have him.

  24. Nicole says:

    They should let him go, he’s done his time. There is nothing more for him to accomplish here and if he goes and is successful, it will help MLS in the long run: he was developed in MLS, became a star, goes over to europe and has a successful career. It would show that MLS, though still a young growing league, can develop players who can step into a decent team in europe and be successful. It would give more incentive to young players that they can indeed stay here, play and develop, rather than sit on a bench and rot in europe.

    I think it’s posturing by the Galaxy and Arena. In the end, for the right price, they’ll let him go.

  25. Nicole says:

    Oh, and it was mentioned again during last night’s ESPN broadcast: Donovan has 1 year left on his contract and 2 option years.

  26. Cameron says:

    When Landon was in Egypt’s land… let my Landon go!

  27. Chris says:


    Sammy is referring to the selling point MLS made in 1996 that one of the main reasons to have a domestic league was to feed the U.S. Mens National Team, so it is a salient point. And all MLS clubs, as franchises of MLS, have working relationships with the U.S. MNT. Not saying they shouldn’t try and protect their own interests, but don’t act like it won’t come up in negotiations.

  28. A.S. says:

    I third Michael F’s question. Who is making the decision here – the Galaxy (Lieweke/Arena) or MLS? I thought MLS owned the contract, not the Galaxy. What if the Galaxy want him to stay but MLS is willing to let him go?

  29. Al17 says:

    They need to reciprocate and let him go. There’s no other player in the history of MLS who has done so much for this league and delivering. He was the face of the league at one point. They keep him for another year, his contract is up and they lose him on a free transfer, although MLS seems to be good at leaving cash on the table. MLS, although isn’t under obligation to support the National Teams, it’s very existence is due in large part to our National Team and an agreement the USSF made with FIFA prior to hosting the 1994 World Cup. The agreement was that we’d have a domestic league in the USA. Alebit two years after the fact, MLS was alive and kicking and has been growing ever since. The league has also produced quite a few good players, so letting Donovan go might be a great way for this league to continue gorwing and showcasing new talent.

    I hope like hell they let him go otherwise they’re truly hurting his development as a player. He definitely can play in any league throughout the world.

  30. nico says:

    let him go. he’ll be back in 6-12 months after it is declared he “didn’t adapt” or “didn’t find the right fit”, though SJ the most likely destination.

  31. Mike says:

    The league is just positioning itself to maximize Donovan’s transfer fee. If LD really wants to go, they’ve got little choice but to sell him. They have no cap room, they only have 1 DP spot, and they have to find a new keeper, centerback, right back, holding mid, striker, and attacking mid once LD leaves. Sell him and rebuild.

  32. Ryan says:

    I find it hard to believe that Bruce Arena wouldn’t be sympathetic to Landon’s wishes. Bruce knows the importance of national team guys making an impact in Europe, and he also knows what he can do with the transfer money. Besides, the last thing Arena needs is transfer drama in his first full year of trying to rebuild a team that is absolutely wrecked with drama. If LA tries to block Donovan from leaving, it’ll only prove that the Galaxy’s primary goal is to be a circus.

  33. Mike_D says:

    I doubt they let him go. They will overvalue him and interested teams won’t be willing to pay the price. His value to MLS is way higher than it is anywhere else. I hope I’m wrong because I’d love to see him back in Europe.

  34. Tony in Quakeland says:


    I watched the Gunners – Hammers game and thought, “Gee, you know who the Hammers need…?” He’d be perfect there, meeting an immediate needs with just the right tools.

  35. onionsack says:

    The fact that LA cannot keep him next year absent either a new DP or yet another extention, i would think its in LA’s best interest on and off the field to sell him for a fat fee, keep the allocation money and start building a SOLID and deep side that compete and win in MLS.

    That would make sense to me, not forcing him to stay and sucking up more top end salary in the cap while not addressing the very shortcomings they have as a unit.

    This is an easy call, they can say this and posture for better transefer fact that is what they must be doing here.

  36. seven says:

    I think they will probably let him go, but if they don’t he got himself into this mess. If he had sucked it up in Germany he would probably be playing in Spain or England by now. When he came back he should have made sure that his contract was structured in a way that allowed him to move when he was ready.

  37. BlueWhiteLion says:

    If I were the Galaxy, I would not let him go, as a business and team decision . . . UNLESS I could figure out a more feasible scenario. You don’t just replace Donovan easily. And if the DP is changed to not count against the cap, they can grow their on field success.

    Am I excited about him going overseas, personally? Sure! Would love to see what he can do.

  38. JM says:

    It is certainly time for Landon to head back to Europe. As a galaxy season ticket holder it’ll be sad to not have him on the squad, but I agree that freeing up that money will give the team the best opportunity to restock with players.

    Having said that, Landon has always made his own decisions (like returning to the MLS) for his own reasons and it wouldn’t surprise me if he stayed. What no one has mentioned above is that his wife is shooting a tv show here in Los Angeles. They may not be interested in having a long distance relationship.

  39. DJ Barnett says:

    He is as good as gone. Why because the MLS will not be able to turn down the transfer fee for him. It is still and always be a professional sports league run by business men who want a return on their investment. I believe the real question is what will that fee be. If Altidore had a $10 million price without having the success of Donovan then what’s Donovan’s fee. I believe it is in the $12.5 to $15 million range and no way the business suits turn that down.

  40. NOLA soccer fan says:

    Bottom line…it serves more purpose to sell donovan, and make more money to put forward to getting better overall players than spending all your money on 2 players who basically want to leave and go to europe..

    The galaxy needs to get its head out of its butt. sell donovan, buy some good players (goalie maybe?), and give beckham a chance to distribute around. otherwise…beckham will just screw the galaxy and the mls by forcing his way to the bench in the san siro.

  41. SonicDeathMonkey says:

    Has there even been any talk of a team that are interested in him? And Munich doesn’t count….thats been pure speculation by bloggers and BS posters, not actual talk from the team. Name me one team that has expressed actual interest in aquiring the services of Landon Donovan.

  42. SonicDeathMonkey says:

    And I missed DJ’s comment,but there is nooooo way Landycakes gets a transfer fee higher than Altidore. Zip. Nada. Zero.

  43. DJ Barnett says:

    Why doesn’t Donovan, aka “The Golden Boy” as me and my friends call him, get a better price than Altidore? He is a much more proven goal scoring in the MLS and international. he is faster than Altidore which is always a plus. Plus we have recently seen The Golden Boy display that undefined “competitors fire” in tough games. He is a better leader and much more confident to face the challenges than a younger prospect like Altidore. He has to have a higher asking price. It’s business baby.

  44. Joseph D'Hippolito says:

    Donovan wants out. He hates Leiweke (then again, who doesn’t?). He hates the circus that the Galaxy has become. He may resepct Arena but the atmosphere of intimidation that AEG fosters (not only on the field but among the sales staff) is stifling. He will fight like Hell to go to Europe. I, for one, hope he wins. Leiweke can go perform a physical impossibility upon himself.

  45. dabull says:

    After the World Cup, didn’t Arena say that US players need to go over seas to become better players for the national team?

    And now that he’s in charge of a club team, he wants to prevent this from happening??

  46. mig says:

    Seriously, DJ, I agree. Altidore is a maybe. Donovan is a known commodity. Sure, Jozy has potential to be something special. He also has the possibility of becoming Eddie Johnson. It is not even an unlikely result for JA’s career, he’s still relatively unskilled and is no more than a prospect. LD is worth more.

    While I think it’s good PR to not have a transfer fight with LD over this, if it came to that, I’d side with the team and league. LD DID sign a contract. If he got hurt or scored 3 goals all season, LA would keep paying him. The team and league are held to their end of the contract, why not the players?

  47. dillon says:

    I’m pretty sure LD could leave on a Webster and the Gals and MLS would have nothing to say about it. They should do what he wants and sell him before he exercises that option and sets a dangerous precedent.

  48. smokeminside says:

    Donovan should go, and will. Beckham’s already on his way, and I’d put even money on the Galaxy being two stars emptier next spring.

  49. henrik says:

    Let Donovan be FREE. LA LIGA or PL

    The Gold Cup is next year? I thought the next was scheduled for 2011?

  50. supsam says:

    As much as i would want Donovan to go overseas, if the Galaxy dont want him to, then case closed and the Galaxy should not lose rep over this. I mean seriously, does a contract not MEAN ANYTHING to anyone anymore!?!?! If someone makes a promise on paper to play for you, you would expect them to…….its that simple!! A promise is a promise and if someone wants to break it, i do not know how that is allowable and better yet the other one is looked down upon for not allowing the other to break it! C. Ronaldo has no values and is not a man of his word so i would expect him to act like he did against manchester united but i would lose all respect for Donovan if he reacted in the same manner.

  51. Nicole says:

    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?

  52. rocky says:

    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.

  53. jgildea says:

    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.

  54. Tony in Quakeland says:

    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….

  55. Bella says:

    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.

  56. Sean says:

    Didn’t Arena get into some trouble for saying Donovan needed to be in Europe and not MLS after the 06 World Cup?

  57. KingSnake says:

    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 …

  58. JB says:

    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.

  59. jloome says:

    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?

  60. Adam M. says:

    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.

  61. Jon E says:

    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.

  62. Rudy says:

    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.

  63. Alex D says:

    Intuitively, I don’t think his transfer fee would exceed $12 million. It may be may be more like $8.

  64. Dan says:

    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.

  65. eric says:

    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.

  66. Jim G. says:

    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!

  67. The Hammer says:

    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.

  68. Brett says:

    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.

  69. Doug says:

    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.

  70. Whocares says:

    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.