In the immediate aftermath of Los Angeles’ decisive MLS Cup victory over Houston Dynamo, much was made of what was next for David Beckham? Was this truly the end of the Beckham experiment? With PSG lurking and Beckham hoping to play in the 2012 Olympics– opinions varied- but general sentiment was (and is) that the run is close to over for David stateside and that the storybook championship ending was an appropriate way to bid adieu. What was not mentioned– and what is certainly worth exploring, is what’s next for Landon Donovan? It just might be now or never for the American starlet, and in Los Angeles, where no news is never great news– that story is worth revisiting.
Indeed, the Galaxy are a team located in a city renowned for rumors and tabloids, and this MLS season brought two trophies to be sure, but also left many more questions regarding the future of the LA Galaxy. Almost immediately following the Galaxy’s win in the 2011 MLS Cup, the rumor mill began to turn. So where WILL two of the key figures in the title run– David Beckham and Landon Donovan, continue/finish their careers?
Beginning with Beckham, who just played the last game of his 5-year contract with MLS. A five year stint where he made 74 appearances for the Galaxy, scoring 11 goals and recording 31 assists, is, in all likelihood, coming to an end. In the days following the Cup win, the aging England international said that “two big European clubs” were in the process of courting him. Just prior to Thanksgiving, long rumored suitor Paris Saint-Germain was confirmed as one of those clubs vying for his services. PSG manager Leonardo admitted “Yes, we’ve spoken…these situations take time. We’ll see if something suits him and suits us.” To me it seems that PSG are currently the leaders for Beck’s signature. PSG are currently in first place in Ligue 1, due in part to Qatar Investment Authority becoming their majority shareholder after buying 70% of the clubs shares in early 2011. Since then the club has gone on a Manchester City-esque spending spree, buying stars such as Argentinian international Javier Pastore and Italian international Salvatore Sirigu. In addition, French internationals Blaise Matuidi, Kevin Gameiro, and Jeremy Menez all joined the squad for the 2011 campaign and are the main reason why Les Parisiens sit atop the table. The Frenchmen aren’t likely to leave either– Laurent Blanc has demonstrated a commitment to home grown, French League players in his EURO quest- and there’s little reason to think a French World Cup campaign under his stewardship will be any different. Observers rightly question whether or not Beckham would fit into PSG’s 4-2-3-1 system. But Beckham proved his worth this past season in central midfield for the Galaxy, and while it is clear that his 36-year-old legs simply cannot handle playing on the wings– his set pieces are still marvelous and he may have usefulness for PSG when they are chasing three points and clinging to one. That said, PSG seem set in midfield with the aforementioned Matuidi and Mathieu Bodmer as holding players and Pastore taking up the traditional number 10 role. PSG’s current right winger, Christophe Jallet could potentially be replaced, but PSG would sacrifice loads of pace were they to replace him with Beckham. While PSG are the most prominent club known to be hunting for Beckham’s services, rumors are popping up the world over claiming clubs are in for him, including Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers of the EPL, and even a remarkably ambitious bid from Mexican club Xoloitzcuintles Tijuana (aka Club Tijuana, home of US international Edgar Castillo and the potential US National Team member Joe Corona).
Despite the significant interest in his services from abroad, Beckham might yet stay in Southern California. Beckham has long claimed his and his family love life in the City of Angels, and AEG president (and LA Galaxy owner) Tim Leiweke believes that MLS and Beckham will be able to find a contractual agreement for the 2012 MLS season. The Galaxy still have the CONCACAF Champions League to play in–they will compete in the quarterfinal matches in March, and the Galaxy have recently just signed a massive ten-year $55 million local television rights deal with Time Warner, who I’m sure would be none too pleased should Beckham move to a new club. Of course, in all of this, we must consider the possibility that Becks will retire. This seems unlikely, for, as noted in the introduction, he has openly stated his interest in leading Great Britain’s Olympic team next summer in his home country. And given his form even last night against the Melbourne Victory– we know he still has magic left in his right leg. And left leg, come to that.
But now for Landon Donovan, perhaps the best known American soccer player in history, and certainly the best known American currently playing in MLS. Donovan’s offseason seems more set in stone, as he is still under contract with the Galaxy until 2013. But it’s entirely possible that with the Galaxy double this past season, he could still attempt to move abroad. Obvious potential destinations include Everton of the EPL, where he spent his offseason in 2009-2010, making 13 overall appearances and notching a pair of goals. Everton manager David Moyes has gone on record saying that he would love to have Donovan back, but the clubs financial situation makes it very hard, as MLS would likely demand an enormous transfer fee. Should Everton magically find fifteen million quid, Donovan could immediately slot into the Everton midfield, taking a place on either flank ahead of either the Ireland international Seamus Coleman or the Holland international Royston Drenthe. In either place, he’d be an immense upgrade, even at 30. Other rumored Donovan destinations include AS Roma, which has recently come under new American ownership, and where the new owners are keen to get American stars on the pitch at the Stadio Olympico. It is not clear where Donovan would fit in at Roma. Giallorossi currently run a diamond 4-4-2 system, and the only spot where Donovan could seemingly play would be at the tip of that diamond, currently controlled by the 19-year-old Argentinian international Erik Lamela, with the forward spots belonging to Spanish international Bojan Krkic and Italian international Pablo Osvaldo. Donovan is, in truth, better than all these players currently, but the question, given the fee he would demand, is “for how long?”
Unlike Beckham, Donovan is under contract and his future is thus a bit more clear. The most likely outcome seems to be that Beckham will move on to PSG and Donovan will stay where he is comfortable in Southern California. But anything can happen, and the Galaxy might have both, or neither, of their most recognizable stars when play resumes in the Spring. Expect the Galaxy front office to use the Time Warner TV deal and the potential addition of more international stars, (rumors link Frank Lampard, Ronaldinho, and Zlatan Ibrohimovic as potential Beckham replacements in LA) as well as the continuation of the CONCACAF Champions League campaign, to try to keep both stars to remain in the City of Angels.
Connor Walsh writes about MLS and the USMNT for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at email@example.com and you can and should follow him on Twitter at @USAGunnerWalsh.