Transfer rumors surrounding American superstar Landon Donovan have been swirling since the tail end of the summer.
It seems like every season that Donovan has spent in MLS, he has been the subject of at least some transfer speculation, but these rumors seem to have a more serious tone to them. Specific teams have shown interest, and Donovan has also spoken about his preferred destinations should a move happen.
It was reported just over a month ago that Bayern Munich manager Jurgen Klinsmann was interested in acquiring Donvan's services. These claims have picked up steam in recent days. Donovan has joined Munich for 10 days to train and stay fit, with his mind open to a possible permanent move come January.
Why is the most successful American footballer of all-time hoping to leave MLS? Where could (or should) he end up when January rolls around?
Donovan is sick of the situation in Los Angeles
With all due respect to David Beckham, his arrival hasn't been enough to right the Galaxy's ship. He's a very talented player but LA's problems run as deep as one of Beckham's long balls.
For years, Los Angeles has had no problem scoring goals, but plenty of trouble keeping the ball out of the back of their own net. Chris Albright and Cobi Jones are gone. The Abel Xavier era was an abject failure. Alexi Lalas' continued neglect of the back line has doomed the squad for the past couple of seasons.
Donovan is the most competitive player in MLS. He's used to winning and expects to be part of a quality squad each and every season. The management in LA have done little to surround their star with talented pieces (again, aside from Beckham) and he's growing frustrated.
Donovan has nothing left to prove in MLS
Landon has won every possible individual and team honor that MLS has to offer.
In his trophy case he's got three MLS Cups, one US Open Cup, two US Soccer Athlete of the Year awards, four Honda Player of the Year awards, one MLS Golden Boot, and a spot in the MLS All-Time Best XI.
MLS can't offer him anything else to aid in his development as a footballer—because he's already accomplished everything in this country. MLS defenses have shown that they are not much of a challenge for his skills and his own teammates aren't talented enough to aid in his development.
When a player is in a situation like this, it's very easy for them to lose focus and grow lazy. Donovan doesn't need to give a maximum effort to be successful in MLS. The last thing that the USSF needs is a lazy superstar on their hands.
MLS will likely get a large transfer fee for Donovan
Over the summer, Spanish club Villarreal paid an MLS record $10 million for up-and-coming American striker Jozy Altidore. Donovan could conceivably command an equal or greater fee for his services. He won't turn 27 until the start of the next MLS season, and has a better track record at the club and international level than Altidore.
The biggest reason for European clubs to be scared of Donovan is his earlier failed stint with Bayer Leverkusen. At Leverkusen, he was a victim of unsteady coaching and inconsistent minutes. These factors combined to shatter his self-confidence and he was unable to turn in a good performance for the Bundesliga club.
A few years later after some quality performances for the US National Team, he seems mentally capable of making a return to Europe.
So, where will he land?
While Bayern Munich would appear to be the early frontrunner for Donovan's service, he may be wary of a return to Germany. The Bundesliga is a very physical league and Donovan is not a very physical player. Bayern Munich would be one of only a small number of clubs in the Bundesliga that Donovan's skill set would fit with, but the league as a whole would not be a good fit.
Donovan himself has expressed interest in a move to either England or Spain. He recognizes that those two leagues are the best fits in Europe for his talents. A move to either league would allow him to display his substantial offensive talents while not getting abused physically, at least not too much.
It's hard to see Donovan landing with one of the very top teams in each league, much less breaking into the starting lineup right away. The Premiership's top four have crowded midfield lineups. Same goes for Real Madrid and Barcelona. A mid-table team in either league would give Donovan the chance to compete against the top talent in the world while playing regularly and fighting for European spots.
All signs point to Donovan leaving MLS in January. It's just a matter of MLS receiving the right offer from a European club. Donovan seems eager to go, MLS seems willing to let him, and the interest will be there.