At long last, it has been made official: Landon Donovan will leave Major League Soccer
Donovan and Major League Soccer officially made the attacker’s future known in a release sent out Tuesday afternoon, followed by a teleconference.
Due to international transfer/release dates, Donovan will not be eligible to play for Bayer until January 1, 2005 – and will not make his official debut until Leverkusen and the rest of the Bundesliga end their winter break later that month.
“It’s not me having to back to Germany,” said Donovan. “It’s me wanting to go back, and I’m excited to go.”
“It’s difficult to put into words,” said MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis, voicing perhaps months of disappointment as the league tried in vain to keep Donovan in California. “Landon has made a huge impact.”
Gazidis confirmed San Jose will receive a “replacement allocation” to make up for the departure of Donovan. The deputy head of the League also voiced his hopes that Donovan will return to MLS sometime in the future.
Now the Earthquakes’ future has taken another wavering step forward as the side loses far and away its best player. Donovan’s future has been in doubt for the better part of two calendar years. The winner three straight years of the Honda U.S. Player of the Year award, Donovan has been on loan from Bayer since 2001 and has won two MLS titles with San Jose in his four seasons in the league. It also was a huge year for Donovan on the national team level, as the 22 year-old played in 14 of 15 matches for the United States, scoring five goals.
Now Donovan heads to Leverkusen, where he faces a healthy struggle in order to break into Klaus Augenthaler’s starting lineup. As the announcement was made, his future teammates were just about to start an important Champions League group match against European power Real Madrid in Spain. Augenthaler has used a variety of formations as of late, including a “Christmas tree” 3-4-2-1 formation, a 4-1-3-2, and also a 4-4-2.
Carsten Ramelow and Andrei Voronin have played centrally in the midfield, Jacek Krzynowek and Paul Freier as the attackers behind target forward Dimitar Berbatov up front. In theory, Donovan could be used in any of the first four slots mentioned, but additionally Franca, Jermaine Jones, and Robson Ponte all are competition for playing time against Donovan in any centralized role.
During the conference all, Donovan said he had promised that he would not be returning to “prison” on his second stint to Germany. Further assurances by Bayer have been made that if Donovan wants to leave, the club will try to move the player to another location. He will be part of Bayer’s winter training camp in the Canary Islands, which begins January 3. His potential “debut” could be against two U.S. teammates on the 22nd when Bayer faces Hannover 96, home of Steve Cherundolo and Clint Mathis.
Original Article written by Aris Ohanessian