The Donovan talk, the Donovan debate, the Donovan backlash (in the direction Garber and the league, not Landon himself) is a swirling pool of putrid projection and condescension. You want Donovan to go back to England. Bill Simmons wants Donovan to go back to England. Your mom probably wants Donovan to go back to England.
Hell, I want Donovan to go back to England.
Too bad it's not about what we want.
It might not even be about what Donovan wants, though that's obviously a factor. It should be noted, strongly, in black permanent marker on your spouse's forehead so you cannot possibly miss it, that none of us really know what Donovan wants. We know he loves Cali. We assume, and have real reason to believe, that he wants to reconcile with his estranged wife, who happens to live there. We have his statements about wanting to be a force to grow the game in the United States, and we know he's making good money to play in LA.
What we don't know is how strong his itch is to return to Europe. We don't know if he is telling MLS to let him go, that he's ready to make the permanent move, that his career as a player will be incomplete without a transfer this summer. We don't know that he's as anxious to get out of Dodge as some of us seem to want him to be.
We don't know if bidders are lining up. There are rumors, just as there are about any player with a pulse, but not much more. Everton and Manchester City. One club with limited funds unwilling to overspend on anyone, let alone a 28 year old midfielder, and one with lots of money but a notable appetite for big fish - a label that can hardly be applied to Donovan, no matter his standing in the American soccer world.
We don't know what MLS wants. Despite what Don Garber said, we don't know that the league is flatly rejecting any bids without consideration. We don't know that they're not just playing a game, sending a clear message that it will take an impressive offer to pry Donovan away. What we do know is that Landon Donovan, American soccer superstar, is worth more to Major League Soccer in terms of talent, marketing clout, face recognition, paparazzi-worthy celebrity, youth soccer heroism, soccer bar godhood, franchise frontmanitude, corporate glad-handerism, and a multitude of other aspects subtle and unclear enough to be undetectable to the our non-corporate brains, than he ever could be to Euro Club X. Donovan isn't just a player, he's an Asset, with a capital "A", and the usual forces of the transfer market simply don't apply.
For reasons I cannot fathom, we've applied a different standard to Donovan and his potential transfer than we have to anyone else across the rest of professional the sports spectrum. Maybe that's what so many can't get; that on the world stage, the relative quality of MLS and the LA Galaxy specifically should not in any way dictate how the league and the club view Donovan leaving. MLS is Double A, as our newly converted MLS-ignoring friend the "Sports Guy" says, so it must be incumbent upon those with the power to sell Donovan on to a better league. Sports, apparently, is business for everyone but them. Donovan's freshly signed contract doesn't matter. The league, in the person of Don Garber, has an obligation to unshackle their biggest American name so he might soar with the eagles on the right side of the Atlantic.
Bullshit. Excuse me.
As sure as we might be, we simply don't know that Donovan abroad would do more for American soccer and MLS than Donovan at home, as so many have claimed in an attempt to justify their disdain for Garber's words. There's no scoreboard hanging over this game, indicating clearly that Donovan at Everton/Man City/Chelsea/relegation candidate is a point for footy in the USA. It doesn't work that way, and of all players to help spread the gospel that MLS can develop talent, Donovan is not at the top of the list. See Bradley, Michael, Altidore, Josmer, Kljestan, Sacha, and a score of others. Donovan's just a very good player with a checkered European past who "matured" later than most people hoped. He can provide quality for whomever he plays; anything more than that is ephemeral at best, a pipe dream at worst.
I could argue that MLS needs him more. Most of you won't listen. I could argue that Donovan's effect as soccer ambassador in the United States trumps anything he could do from distant shores. You won't care. I could even argue that LA has every right to hold on to him no matter how he feels about the situation. It won't matter. So I'll say this as a closer, if only to remind you that what we don't know is just as important as what we do:
Landon Donovan probably knows what he wants better than you do. Until he comes out and blasts the league for holding him back, scathing indictments of MLS up to and including an asinine personal boycott because they've said they won't sell him are ridiculous, indefensible, and downright idiotic.
Stop being indignant on his behalf. It's not becoming.
Who let me post this with that terrible headline involving a non-word?