Donovan wins award for a record fifth time
LOS ANGELES -- Landon Donovan wants another chance to succeed in Europe.
A bust with Bayer Leverkusen during two prior stints in Germany, Donovan began training with Bayern Munich on Tuesday -- the same day he was voted U.S. player of the year for a record fifth time.
"This has been an interesting week for me," Donovan said by telephone. "This opportunity was too good for me to pass up."
Donovan also won the Honda Award in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2007. The 26-year-old forward led Major League Soccer this year with 20 league goals for the Los Angeles Galaxy, playing alongside David Beckham. With 37 goals in 105 international appearances, Donovan became the American career scoring leader.
His previous stints in Europe were failures. After signing when he was 16, Donovan never got into a match when he was with Leverkusen from 1999-01. Following four seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes, he returned to Leverkusen in 2005. He lasted just a few months, failing to score in seven Bundesliga appearances and two more in the European Champions League.
He played poorly in a Champions League match against Liverpool, grew homesick for then-girlfriend (now wife) Bianca and returned to MLS three weeks later, joining the Galaxy.
"I'm a different player than I was then, competing for a spot," Donovan said. "While at the time it seemed like everything was against me, the reality was I just wasn't ready yet. Now I know I'm ready and want the chance to prove myself. In my mind, I just want to know if it's possible."
He is training for 10 days with Bayern, coached by former California resident Juergen Klinsmann, the former coach of Germany's national team.
"For me, it's just an opportunity to see how I stack up, doing some training with some very good players and kind of getting a feel for possibly going forward," Donovan said.
Klinsmann also is a former technical adviser to the Galaxy.
"He is a great guy, a very good player and a big personality in U.S. football," Klinsmann said on Bayern's Web site.
Donovan finished with 297 points in this year's voting by a nationwide panel of journalists, followed by Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard (249) and Fulham forward Clint Dempsey (176).
"Landon is a presence," Howard said by phone from England. "When you line up in the tunnel to go onto the field and you see Landon there, it gives you confidence."
For Donovan to play for a club in Europe, an agreement would have to be worked out with MLS and the Galaxy.
"In a perfect world, if it was up to me, I would love to go somewhere," he said. "I will do my part and take advantage of this opportunity and see what happens. If nothing comes of this, it's still a good opportunity for me."
His agent, Richard Motzkin, said it was premature to speculate whether Donovan will have a chance to play for a European club.
"It's a situation where Juergen and Landon had known each other for years. It was an opportunity to go over to train and stay fit and it made sense for everybody," Motzkin said.