Loan Move Makes the Most Sense for Landon Donovan

Ben TrianaFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2009

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 04:  Professional soccer player and member of the US National Soccer Team Landon Donovan poses for photos at the FIFA World Cup final draw viewing event hosted by Visa at ESPN Zone in Times Square on December 4, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Visa)
Jemal Countess/Getty Images

It seems that Landon Donovan has settled on his best option at this point in his career. Now that the MLS season is over, it looks like Donovan will follow in Beckham's footsteps and head over to Europe for a couple of months, and with Donovan's contract coming up in the near future, a loan move may be the smartest choice he could make.

No longer is Donovan the spring chicken that can afford to spend time on the bench, waiting for the opportunity to win a starting spot with a high profile, overseas team. He needs to continue gaining experience, not just for this summer's World Cup, but for the foreseeable future.

Over the next four years, Donovan will be forced to turn his game into one that will allow him to play into his late thirties (unless he is the American version of the ageless Ryan Giggs). He will have to rely more on his skill and intelligence, and less on his speed and space. This cannot happen if he is fighting for first team appearances.

Thus, Everton's interest is a great opportunity for the American. He has little to lose and everything to gain. If he rarely sees the field, then it's no big deal. He heads off to South Africa in great shape after getting some training and reserve team play with some elite players. Any playing time he does receive is a little more experience in one of the strongest leagues on the planet. 

If injuries are a concern, they can happen at any time, not just during a match. He could tear a ligament once the USMNT camp starts, or like France's Djibil Cisse during the last World Cup, break his leg at one of his first practices once the U.S. team arrives in South Africa.

Also, he risks little criticism if his stint in the EPL is a wash. 

Sure, some will say that once again, Donovan can't get it done on the big stage, but such comments are a bit of a stretch. His performances for the national side have proven that he can play against the best in the world (in some of those games it looked like he was the only U.S. player that could), so he has little left to prove to the international community.

A loan spell will be an opportunity for Donovan to showcase his wares and drum up more interest in his service once he is free to look outside the MLS. The only question will be if Donovan will want to head to Europe permanently, and that will only happen if he feels like his last two stints in Europe are smudges to his legacy.

Everton is also a good choice as there's a history of Americans at the club (Tim Howard, Brian McBride being two of the more current ones). It is a team that is underperforming and could use a player that may add a spark to the offense. In any case, it appears to be a better fit than Bayern Munich.

Even if Donovan plays horribly, English Championship League teams, as well as lesser leagues around Europe, would still be interested in adding Donovan to their roster. He really has little to lose.

It looks like the only two issues he will have to resolve are how much he wants to make and where he prefers to play once he is available.

In the end, this move by Donovan might be the model that other burgeoning talents in the MLS follow in the future. Wait until the season is over, sign with a European club for a short amount of time, if that club or another is interested, sign long term for next season.

The MLS as a whole might want to start encouraging such transactions in the future. It might have helped Taylor Twellman's career. Rather than tying himself into a long term contract with the MLS because he had no interest from overseas, a loan offer would have allowed him to develop contacts in other leagues, alleviating fears that he would not have been able to sign somewhere else in the world.

Donovan's Everton experience could have many implications. Hopefully, Americans will be rooting for the Toffees come January.