Los Angeles midfielder Donovan will spend January and February on Merseyside before returning to the Galaxy in time for the MLS campaign.
Leave it to Landon Donovan to add a little sizzle to the MLS hot stove.
Donovan will join Everton on a two-month loan deal from Los Angeles in January, according to announcements made by both clubs yesterday.
The U.S. international midfielder will attempt to replicate his successful spell with the Toffees from early 2010 before returning to the Galaxy in time for the start of the MLS campaign in mid-March.
The Friday Five sorted through some of the complications of this move to weigh up its potential impact:
1. Donovan enjoys more offseason flexibility than any other MLS player: Donovan's commercial value to MLS may limit his ability to engineer a permanent move abroad for a reasonable fee (if he even harbors the desire to make one), but his influence within league circles permits him to strike these offseason deals to temporarily foray into more competitive waters. This return to Everton marks a third winter loan spell in four years for the Galaxy man. Short-term moves won't quell the crowd that clamors to see Donovan ply his trade in Europe full-time, but they may just satisfy an established star who apparently prefers to strike a balance between comfort and competition as he plots out his professional life.
2. Did Brad Friedel's recent comments prompt this move?: The former U.S. international goalkeeper and current Tottenham number one took a rather unsolicited swipe at Donovan during a recent interview with BBC World Service. Friedel – probably the most successful American player in the history of the English Premier League – essentially called out Donovan for taking the easier path by spending much of his career in MLS.
Friedel's too-close-to-home verdict probably did not instigate this move, but the timing of his salvo – and a few Donovan comments in the wake of the Galaxy's MLS Cup triumph – does at least raise a question or two about whether the kerfuffle played some part in Donovan's decision.
As Donovan prepared to start his offseason, he told reporters that he would not rule out a loan move during the winter.
“I would entertain anything, but the main elements for me are being physically and mentally ready to go next year. For this team. And if anything is going to impede that, I'm not going to do it,” Donovan told ESPN Los Angeles in late November.
Donovan apparently classified a temporary switch as a potential impediment during that same media availability session.
“I learned a lot this year about my body and I was probably a little lazy at points this year with things that probably would have let me hold up better at the end of the year,” Donovan told ESPN Los Angeles. “So I want to be better in those areas. … The first part is to start from scratch next year, and you don't start from scratch if you're training and playing all winter during the offseason. I think we probably have until the third week in January to just really relax and let our bodies catch up, and then we'll be ready to go.”
The about-face could result from any one of several factors (including Donovan simply reassessing his physical situation after a few weeks of rest or Everton registering official interest after the fact), but Donovan's change in posture provides an intriguing subplot to this entire situation.
3. This deal says more about Everton than it does any other involved party: In the end, this move doesn't mean an awful lot in the grand scheme of things. Donovan's career will not change dramatically by spending another two months in the Premier League, though he may have to deal with more of the nonsense about his chosen career path. Los Angeles and MLS may derive some ancillary benefits for their financial ledgers and their reputations, but those boosts aren't permanent either. Everton will gain a useful player for a short time period and, more to the point, reinforce the uncomfortable truth about its current financial situation.
By agreeing to such a brief loan spell, Everton has once again shown that it needs to add quality to its small squad by any means necessary. Why else would canny Everton boss David Moyes agree to sign a player for two months and then return him promptly after that point? Moyes continues to work wonders with a budget well below the usual surrounding clubs in the top half of the table. If he can coax a few helpful months out of Donovan while he figures out how to paper over the cracks again for the remainder of the campaign, then he will once again make the best use of his extensive connections and his modest resources.
4. Cast aside any worries about Donovan missing out on preseason reps with the Galaxy: Los Angeles boss Bruce Arena and his charges have managed to overcome a variety of distractions over the past five years. Donovan's jaunt to Merseyside will barely register as a blip in their day-to-day world so long as the former MLS MVP returns fully fit at the end of his time at Goodison Park.
5. Forget about adding a particularly experienced figure to Jurgen Klinsmann's first January camp: It's hard to get an exact read on Klinsmann's plans for the annual gathering of MLS standouts and other international hopefuls on winter break, but it isn't out of the realm to suggest that he may have wanted Donovan to attend it.
Donovan has missed the past four U.S. national team matches through injury (October against Honduras and Ecuador) and postseason engagements (November against France and Slovenia). This camp isn't meant for Donovan at this stage of his career, but Klinsmann might just have included him anyways given his general thoughts on the duration of the MLS season and his willingness to go to certain lengths to keep his players active during the winter.
The loan deal renders this potentially sticky issue moot. Klinsmann must now wait until he reconvenes his full squad – probably for the February international date – to reconnect with Donovan.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSsoccer.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.