Life's a beach, says Landon Donovan
LOS ANGELES -- Landon Donovan knows he could raise his game by returning to Europe but the elegant U.S. striker, who has been on a successful streak since a disappointing World Cup, would rather savour the good life at home in California.
Donovan, who has scored seven goals in 13 league matches to lead the Los Angeles Galaxy to seven wins and three draws since July 1, said in an interview with Reuters he might feel a yearning someday to play again in a top European league such as England or Spain.
Not any time soon, though.
"I love my life here," said Donovan, 24, who had two unhappy stops at Bayer Leverkusen in 1999-2001 and 2005 after the Bundesliga powerhouse made him the youngest American ever signed in Europe at age 16. "I'm enjoying myself."
While Donovan ruled out a third try in the bone-crunching German first division, the Galaxy captain said he was open to a transfer at some point to one of the other European leagues which he believes are better suited to his style.
"If it happens, it happens," said Donovan of a mooted move to Europe from the Galaxy, where he is easily his team's most valuable player and deservedly one of the top earners in the ever-improving Major League Soccer (MLS) with a salary of $900,000.
"It's the farthest thing from my mind, to be honest. I don't think about it unless I'm asked," he said after being named Man of the Match for a stellar performance and splendid goal in a 2-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo here.
Donovan acknowledged that the Bundesliga had given him a great education. He watched in awe when even established players risked their necks in practice leaping into tackles in the mud.
Several U.S. teammates and coaches have urged him to go back to Europe to sharpen his skills.
"I'd probably become a better soccer player just from the day-in, day-out grind of it there," said Donovan, who has been the dominant player in the U.S. league since returning to the Galaxy from a sub-par World Cup performance in July.
"But I wouldn't be a better person. I wouldn't be a happy person. I'd be pretty miserable," added the man who has called food in Europe "crappy". He once said that while playing in Europe he missed American hamburgers, the beach, sun and women.
Living an extraordinarily comfortable existence with his actress girlfriend in Manhattan Beach, a pleasant town south of Los Angeles filled with millionaires and surfers, Donovan has four years left with the Galaxy and is in no rush to leave.
"Spain or England might fit my style but the last time I checked there weren't any teams knocking on the door to get me and secondly I'm not going anywhere for a while," said Donovan, a lightening quick forward and superb passer.
"There are a lot of factors that would go into it: the country, the language, the people, the playing situation. Am I going to play or be sitting on the bench again? I have no time for going over and trying out and doing things like that. That doesn't interest me.
"If something came about and it was something I wanted to try and seemed intriguing, then I would consider it," said Donovan, who learned Spanish growing up in California playing with Latino team mates.
Despite his fluent Spanish, Donovan is reviled in Mexico, where he was filmed in 2004 urinating on the pitch during a practice before a match at Jalisco stadium in Guadalajara.
For now he is content to be in California, not far from where former Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann lives.
"The MLS has gotten a lot better. It's not La Liga, not the Premier League and it's not the Bundesliga. But it's getting better. We're not as bad as people think."
Donovan felt he had something to prove after the World Cup.
"Part of it is me making sure I'm still a good soccer player and I want to make sure I still have that in me," said Donovan, who failed to produce any of the fearless runs through crowds of defenders that helped the U.S. to reach the 2002 quarterfinals.
Galaxy coach Frank Yallop said was it unfair that Donovan, who has 25 international goals and 84 caps, got blasted after the U.S. managed only a draw against Italy between losses to the Czechs and Ghana.
"The whole thing was 'because Landon didn't play well'. I disagree. A lot of players were poor. He's the kind of player who plays well when the team plays well."
He countered critics who said Donovan was too soft for Europe.
"Leverkusen was not the place for him. It's not his style. For people who say he didn't make it in Europe, I disagree. He didn't want to be in Germany."