KENYA BROWN - Tuesday, November 25, 2008
We are just over a month away from the opening of the winter transfer window and as usual there is a lot of speculation as to where some of the world's top players will be moving. The speculation doesn't avoid our boys in MLS and in Europe.
The rumors of Fulham attacker Clint Dempsey possibly leaving Craven Cottage, the will they or won't they loan Villarreal striker Josmer Altidore and every club having an eye on a potential prospect in the MLS can drive any soccer fanatic insane. Then there is the situation of LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan.
With the all-time leading scorer of the US National Team following in the footsteps of teammate David Beckham by completing a loan deal to German Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern Munich sent a clear message to MLS and the US soccer community. He has matured as a player and is ready to test himself, once again, with the best players in Europe.
It is understandable that some soccer fans have mixed feelings about this move, but it must be noted that this is a different LD from ten years ago when he was the Golden Ball winner from the U-17 World Championship in 1999.
Back then we saw a player who had signed a contract with Bayer Leverkusen with high expectations being attached to it. A move back stateside to Galaxy had most calling his adventure to Europe a failure.
Well, after three MLS Cups and a host of personal accolades, I think it is safe to say that he has turned out alright. But, even the California native knows that if he wants to gain further respect and be recognized as a great player he has got to go back across the pond and prove to the critics that his last stint there was merely a blip in a long career.
Donovan's decision to give Europe a third crack is a great choice. There is nothing more he can do for the Galaxy or MLS and there is the risk of him becoming stale if he were to stay on longer with them. The Bruce Arena-led club will probably be looking to overhaul the squad after three lackluster seasons.
While the former San Jose Earthquake has accomplished a great thing by signing with the biggest club in the Germany the hard part of the deal begins.
Cracking the first eleven will almost be a daunting task with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's preferred frontline tandem of Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni getting the start almost every match. No one can attest to this more than Lukas Podolski.
The former FC Cologne player, who became a star at the 2006 World Cup, has found his own troubles getting into the first team and is now looking for a move away from the club in January despite the reluctance of the club.
By adding a fourth striker to the squad, the former German national team coach is spoiled for choice up front. This could take a little pressure off the primary strikers in Klose and Toni and give Podolski more opportunities to get into the first eleven along with Donovan. While it is a great idea, the ultimate test will be seen on the field as it is unknown whether Donovan can link up well with any of the three strikers.
Results of this will be very important as the last time anyone saw a team possess four quality strikers was ten years ago when Manchester United made the improbable run to the three trophies in 1999 with Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at his disposal.
While this season's MLS leading goal scorer will be playing primarily in the striker position, Bayern Munich should not forget that Donovan could be deployed in the midfield if necessary.
Although the attacking midfield slots are dominated by Frenchman Franck Ribery and Germany international Bastian Schweinsteiger, injuries do occur and Klinsmann could call on Donovan to play a bigger role in the squad.
It is a role that he has played many times before with the Galaxy and the national team, so he should not be too worried if the situation were to occur.
The pressure of making the squad is one thing, but we cannot forget the Munich supporters. Bayern is expected to challenge for all honors whenever they are in competition and that is why they only bring in players they deem capable of accomplishing the task. A slump could get you on the wrong side of the supporters and regaining their loyalty maybe something that is difficult to do.
So, the IMG Soccer Academy alum has got to ask himself if he is ready to handle the pressure of performing in front of the masses at the Allianz Arena.
While there is so much pressure to perform well and break into a squad like Bayern, there is one advantage that the number ten has in his favor. Unlike other coaches in the Bundesliga, Jurgen Klinsmann has spent much of his retirement in the United States.
He has been studying the game, learning how to motivate players and putting together a system that emphasizes attacking soccer. It is uncertain what kind of relationship the two had while at the Galaxy, but Klinsmann will certainly nurture him and keep as much pressure off as possible. Let's not forget that Klinsmann's assistant, Martin Vasquez, is a former US national team player, so there is another extension to the support system.
The loan deal is for three months, so there is not much time for the former Portsmouth FC target to work with, but let me throw out this scenario to you all. If Donovan is successful, then what will be the price tag that MLS slaps on Bayern?
With the global economy in crisis mode, soccer clubs are not immune. It is certain that MLS will want a considerable amount for the World Cup veteran, but they should be prepared not to get a ten million dollar or greater offer like Villarreal paid for wonderkid Jozy Altidore. If MLS ask for too much, then it could derail what may be a successful return to the shores of Europe.
So, as the time gets closer to the January transfer window opening, the time for Donovan to impress and gain a permanent deal will be put under the microscope. Whether he succeeds is anyone's guess because Bayern Munich does not usually take risks on players that did not come up to par on there previous ventures in Europe. However, he can look to Brazilian midfielder Ze Roberto who once was highly touted by Real Madrid, and failed, only to succeed with the Bavarians.
Chances are this could work out for him. We will just have to wait and see.