Donovan's situation differs from that of Beckham a year ago
I wonder if David Beckham has afforded himself a wry smile at the irony of this week's statements from Landon Donovan, in which he said he would like to skip the start of the MLS season in order to lengthen his stay with Everton.
What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, as Donovan prepared for the new MLS season with the L.A. Galaxy, his hackles were raised by Beckham's successful lobbying for an extension to his loan at AC Milan, and Donovan went public with his criticism, claiming that, among other things, the Englishman was not committed to coach Bruce Arena's side.
For Los Angeles, the knock-on effect was having to play the opening 3½ months of 2009 without one-half of its most dynamic duo. When Beckham did return, the media descended on the Home Depot Center to report on the conflict between the club's two stars, causing an unwelcome distraction for them and the rest of the team.
In the months following, Donovan mended fences, admitting he was "unfair" and that he did not give Beckham a chance to show his humility. He also signed a new contract with MLS, one of the clauses of which allowed him to seek overseas loans during the offseason. Soon afterward, a deal was struck with Everton, which led to a loan spell so successful that both player and club have sought to increase its length.
Some may claim that, given his criticism of Beckham last year, Donovan's quest for an extension of his own makes him look hypocritical and guilty of some of the same failings. However, though it is true that there are similarities between the situations, they are not completely identical.
First and foremost, like the rest of us, soccer players are fundamentally motivated by looking after "No. 1." Given that, the actions of Beckham a year ago and of Donovan now are understandable. Both are career-minded men who have come to see a greater benefit for themselves in playing abroad -- in the short-term at least -- than in plying their trade in MLS.
However, whereas Beckham's ultimate aim was to effectively double the length of his loan in order to finish the Serie A season with AC Milan, Donovan is on record as saying that he wants to extend his stay with Everton by just one month until April 15, which would allow him to play immediately for the Galaxy upon his return to Los Angeles.
If, that is, there are games to play in -- the specter of a possible players' strike has to be a major factor in Donovan's thinking and a major reason for the game of brinkmanship he is currently attempting to play. Returning to America only to then down tools in solidarity with his colleagues would do little for his career, especially with a World Cup looming.
Meanwhile, projecting forward to the longer term, I wonder what Donovan's thoughts are about the four-year, $9 million contract he signed in December. Does he regret putting pen to paper, or will his ambition be satisfied by a two-month sojourn in Europe every January?
Perhaps we will never find out. Such has been the impression Donovan has made in his short time at Everton. His list of suitors has grown to the extent that, if the price is right, a post-World Cup transfer back to Europe is a strong possibility -- although whether Goodison Park would become his new, permanent home would remain to be seen.
The future, though, is just that. For now, Donovan will settle for another month on Merseyside.
A thing that made me go hmmm
Donovan's future could be impacted by the latest collective bargaining agreement talks, which are due to take place this week.
After two negotiation extensions still failed to provide enough time for MLS players, the league and its owners to come to terms on a new deal, the opposing sides will return to the table along with George H. Cohen, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, who will serve as mediator in the discussions.
It should be noted that Cohen's presence is in a "nonbinding" capacity, meaning nobody should be fooled into thinking that, at this stage, this is anything other than a small step in the right direction toward finally agreeing on a new CBA. His input may help, or it may muddy the waters further.
The fact is that the divisive issues remain the same. The players remain focused on their goals, with two of the most fundamental being free agency and guaranteed contracts, both of which the league and owners have hitherto refused to grant.
For its part, MLS is prepared to operate under the old CBA and has stated that it will not sanction a lockout. Thus, there is greater onus on the players to make something happen. Time is running short to get a deal done before the start of the regular season on March 25, a date which could, in theory, see players use the most useful piece of leverage remaining to them, which is to strike.