Former Liverpool player and New England Revolution coach Steve Nicol has slammed Landon Donovan, saying the former U.S. national team great would focus on himself rather than trying to help a team's younger players progress.
Rumors emerged Thursday that Donovan has requested a designated player deal from Real Salt Lake and another team in the Eastern Conference. Donovan retired from the sport after the 2014 season but came back during the LA Galaxy's 2016 campaign. While he won't return to the Galaxy, Donovan looks to be in talks with a pair of MLS teams.
Nicol said he wouldn't sign the 34-year-old but would rather bring in a player from South America, like Uruguay international Nicolas Lodeiro, who joined the MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders midseason from Boca Juniors. Nicol, referencing a sabbatical Donovan took from playing soccer, said the United States' all-time leading scorer no longer has a passion for soccer.
"I don’t think this guy loves the game. He left the game because he’d had enough, and then when he came back he said that he hadn’t even looked at a football in whatever. I don’t think he’s doing it for the love of the game, I think he’s more interested in getting paid," Nicol said on ESPNFC. "So, I wouldn’t do it. You can go get a Lodeiro from Argentina and pay him that money, why would you not do that instead of getting a 34-year-old who I don’t think is in love with the game anymore?"
And while Donovan said upon retirement that he wanted to help younger players as a coach and managed the league's homegrown squad during the All-Star break, Nicol is skeptical that Donovan would provide a positive influence in the locker room.
"A big reason why you take a chance on a 34-year-old who has bags of experience, is a great player is to pass that on to your younger players," Nicol said. "Now, Landon Donovan to me is not a guy who is playing the game because, 'You know what? Part of the reason I want to play is to pass on my experience to the younger players.' Landon Donovan has always been about being the focal point of the team.
"When you’re signing an older player, part of it is can he help the rest of the team with his professionalism, with the way he goes about training every day? I think Landon is always going to focus more on himself."