Landon Donovan's new multiyear contract with the Galaxy reportedly… (Nick Ut / Associated Press )
The Galaxy formally announced Wednesday that it has re-signed Landon Donovan, with a team official confirming the deal is among the richest in league history. But after listening to Galaxy executives laud Donovan at Wednesday's news conference, it was hard not to wonder if the team got Donovan on the cheap.
"Landon's resume speaks for itself," said Dan Beckerman, president and CEO of AEG, the Galaxy's parent company, and the man who will sign Donovan's paychecks. "With Landon, we have the greatest American soccer player to ever play the game."
Echoed Coach Bruce Arena: "He is the best player in the history of the game in our country."
And how much does the best player in American history cost? Unconfirmed media reports put the deal at three years and said that, with incentives, it could make Donovan the highest-paid player in Major League Soccer.
League policy prevented the Galaxy from commenting on that, although one high-ranking front office official said Donovan's guaranteed salary is "lower but ... close" to what Clint Dempsey agreed to when he signed with the Seattle Sounders this month. That deal will reportedly pay Dempsey just more than $5 million a year for four seasons, the fourth-highest annual salary in MLS history and nearly twice what Chivas USA is paying its entire roster.
Donovan's current four-year deal, worth just less than $10 million, expires at the end of this season. And even though the Galaxy was necessarily short on details regarding the extension, the team wasn't shy about the significance of the signing. Donovan, who has won a record five MLS Cups, is three goals shy of tying the league's all-time scoring record with 134 goals. And he is the all-time leader in goals and assists for the U.S. national team, which is likely to call him up Monday for the next round of World Cup qualifiers.
"I'm very proud of what I've accomplished," said Donovan, who joined the Galaxy in 2005. "But I have a lot more to achieve. This [contract] is not a reward for what I've done. This is something I'm going to earn."
Eight months ago, Donovan's career was at a crossroads. Exhausted after averaging a game a week for more than a decade, Donovan took a self-imposed three-month sabbatical on the eve of the final round of World Cup qualifying. That cost him his spot on the national team, and when the Galaxy opened the season without Donovan, Arena took away his captain's armband.
But over the last two months, Donovan has proved he was right in taking a break to rekindle his passion for the sport by playing some of the best soccer in his unparalleled career.
"Was this day ever in doubt? Yeah, for a lot of reasons," he said. "I didn't know five months ago if I wanted to keep playing much longer. This summer, through a lot of work and through a lot of support from friends, family, the Galaxy, it's now very clear to me that I want to keep playing.