The recent contracts given to Clint Dempsey and Omar Gonzalez coupled with Landon Donovan's expiring contract has the USA star in an advantageous position heading into the winter.As the financial landscape and American makeup of Major League Soccer changed dramatically in the last few weeks, Landon Donovan had to be pleased with what he saw unfolding.
In the last two weeks, Donovan has seen his USA counterpart Clint Dempsey become the highest-paid player in MLS and his teammate, Omar Gonzalez, get an unprecedented Designated Player deal for a young, American defender.
With Donovan's contract set to expire at the end of the season and the Galaxy star showing that he has plenty left in his tank -- perhaps more than most would have anticipated -- following a trying personal year and his well-publicized, self-imposed playing hiatus, the cards are falling Donovan's way.
After MLS and the Seattle Sounders "moved mountains," in Dempsey's words, to land the current U.S. national team captain, Donovan should expect nothing less if the Galaxy or another ambitious team in MLS is to step up and make a deal come contract time. In public comments regarding his looming next career move, he made it abundantly clear that he won't accept anything less than full value for his services and confirmed Goal's report from two weeks ago about possibilities abroad.
In the immortal words of Teddy KGB: Pay that man his money.
"As players we're all very happy that the league is stepping up and committing that kind of resources to American players that they want playing in the league," Donovan told Fox Soccer Daily's Julie Stewart-Binks. "Right now I'm enjoying myself. I want to continue enjoying myself. We have received offers from teams in different countries that are intriguing. I am still going to speak with the Galaxy and see how they value me and see where they want to go going forward."
Committing that kind of resources to American players that they want playing in the league.
See how they value me.
The well-versed Donovan is not one to choose words unwisely, and he knows very well where he stands -- or should stand -- on the MLS priority list. Because of his lofty resume, the league flag-bearing duties he has maintained for more than the last decade, and the genuine outside interest in his talents, Donovan has an inordinate amount of leverage with which to work.
Age might be the only thing working against him, although one could argue that with the 30-year-old Dempsey getting his huge deal, that might not be as much of a factor. Considering Donovan is 31, perhaps the Galaxy do not want to commit that much money to an aging attacking player with an up-and-coming crew of attacking stars like Jose Villarreal, Jack McBean and Gyasi Zardes, and with the club's two other DP spots currently occupied by Gonzalez and Robbie Keane.
Fair enough. If LA fails to pay up or disrespects Donovan with a lowball offer, he will happily move on to one of his "intriguing" options while making the Galaxy and MLS truly consider whether they are OK with the thought of him playing elsewhere.
A 13-time MLS All-Star on the verge of breaking the league's all-time scoring record and the only player to crack 50 goals or 50 assists (and he's done both) for the U.S. national team, there is no denying Donovan's place in MLS and U.S. soccer history, and if anyone has earned a post-30 pay day, it is him.
Not that he has been making chump change (up until Dempsey's deal, Donovan was the highest paid American in MLS by some margin, and he is on a $2.5 million salary in 2013 according to MLS Players' Union documents), but with Dempsey making more than two times that amount in guaranteed compensation, the notoriously thrifty MLS market has shifted generously in Donovan's favor.
There was a time not that long ago when it seemed like Donovan might bow out of the game sooner than later and that this winter would not be such a time of serious contention. The Donovan that sounded burnt out and on the verge of an abrupt retirement has gotten his second wind, though, and it is creating quite the stir.
"I'm really open [to leave the Galaxy] in a way that I haven't been before," Donovan said. "In the past I was pretty content to stay in L.A., but if it doesn't work out, and we can't come to an agreement here, then I'm ready for a different challenge, and we'll see what happens."
Regadless of which direction it goes, Donovan is in the driver's seat.