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GRAHAME L. JONES / ON SOCCER

Landon Donovan possibly considering winter loan to Everton

U.S. Coach Bob Bradley might have the final say in whether the Galaxy and national team forward is allowed to play for the English Premier League.

December 13, 2009|By Grahame L. Jones
  • Landon Donovan battles El Salvador's Ramon Flores for the ball during World Cup qualifying with the U.S. national team.
Landon Donovan battles El Salvador's Ramon Flores for the ball during… (Jonathan Ferrey / Getty…)

Why all this fuss over Landon Donovan?

Major League Soccer's highest-paid and most-prized American asset supposedly is contemplating a winter loan move to Everton of the English Premier League, where he would join U.S. teammate and goalkeeper Tim Howard.

Everton Coach David Moyes' club apparently wants Donovan in the hope that the Galaxy forward can either score or set up enough goals to steer the team out of relegation danger and back toward respectability.

Everton, which climbed to 15th place in the 20-team Premier League by managing an improbable 3-3 tie with league leader Chelsea in London on Saturday, hopes to land Donovan during the January transfer window.

The call, of course, is not Everton's to make. Nor is it Donovan's. Indeed, it might not even be Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena who decides whether the 27-year-old can go anywhere on loan.

It might be Bob Bradley, the U.S. national team coach, who ultimately has final say. A simple call from Bradley to Arena, his friend and predecessor as national coach, could scotch any loan deal.

Several thoughts will cross Bradley's mind while pondering this. What effect, for example, would so much soccer have on Donovan?

A full 2008 MLS season, followed by a loan spell with Bayern Munich, followed by a full 2009 MLS campaign that extended all the way to the Nov. 22 final, followed by a loan spell to Everton, followed by another spell in MLS, could leave Donovan burned out come June 12, when the U.S. opens its World Cup campaign against England.

Then, too, the U.S. has its own preparatory matches to play, starting with an as-yet-unconfirmed game on Jan. 24 against fellow World Cup team Honduras in Carson and likely including a half-dozen or more other games, two of them supposedly against the Netherlands and Northern Ireland.

A match-fit and motivated Donovan is vital to U.S. chances of advancing to at least the second round in South Africa. From Bradley's standpoint, the sooner Donovan and the rest of the American starting 11 can get on the same page, the better.

But if Donovan is at Everton until the end of the Premier League season on May 9, he will not be released for all of those U.S. warmup games, only for those falling on international fixture dates.

But if he is lent only until the start of the MLS season on March 25, that hardly does Everton much good, unless Donovan adapts instantly to the pace of the Premier League and the physical challenges of the English game.

Going on loan and not getting significant playing time makes little sense. In that case, staying home would be the better option.

All things considered, Bradley very easily could shake his head, have a quiet word with Arena and keep Donovan in California.

The question then becomes:

How will Donovan react if he thinks his chance of a move to the Premier League has been denied him?

Champions dilemma

Sixteen teams have advanced to the knockout stage of the European Champions League, which resumes play in February.

In alphabetical order, they are: AC Milan, Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Bordeaux, Chelsea, CSKA Moscow, Fiorentina, Inter Milan, Manchester United, Olympiakos, Olympique Lyon, Porto, Real Madrid, Sevilla and Stuttgart.

While the coaches of those 16 might be eyeing the May 22 final in Madrid, so, too, are the coaches of the leading World Cup teams.

The Champions League final comes only 20 days before the opening game of the World Cup, so World Cup coaches are inclined to hope their players don't make it as far as Madrid.

England Coach Fabio Capello's worst nightmare is to see Manchester United and Chelsea both reach the final, as they did in 2008.

"It's a problem," Capello said. "If there are nine players from the England team in the final, we will need a minimum of four or five days to relax them afterward.

"If they win, then they will be happy and it will be psychologically important for them.

"However, if they have lost, it will not be easy for them to recover their forces physically and psychologically."

Height of absurdity

The news that England's World Cup players will not be taking any anti-impotence drugs to help combat the effects of altitude in South Africa next summer will come as a relief to the players' wives and girlfriends no doubt.

After all, the WAGs, as they are known, will purposely be kept at a distance by Capello. But who knows what mischief Wayne Rooney and company could get up to in the wilds of, say, Polokwane?

"The England medical staff is conducting detailed research with a variety of experts ahead of next year's World Cup," said a statement issued by the English football association.

"However, there has been no discussion with regard to Viagra and certainly no plans for the players to take it in South Africa at the tournament."

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