Open Letter to Landon Donovan

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Dear Landon,

I was wrong about you.  Along with most European and American pundits, I underestimated your talent and character when you left Bayer Leverkusen after an unsuccessful stint abroad.

Even after your return to Major League Soccer (MLS), I joined the chorus of critics that dubbed you “Landycakes” and excoriated you as a player good enough only to excel in MLS.  I won’t make excuses.  I admit that my judgment was premature and inaccurate.

Today, however, in addition to my apology, I write to offer an entirely different sentiment.  It is a request of the utmost sincerity – one that took time and different circumstances for me to make.

It was borne out of disappointment with our national team (US MNT) and discontentment with the progress of the most promising American players.  You see, there are few Americans that have failed in Europe and returned to the States, only to become very good players by international standards while playing in MLS.  Actually, I can’t think of any players.  Just you.

You have outshined everyone in MLS for too long, even that certain occasional teammate of yours – the one from the underwear ads.  You have become the engine for the US MNT and, frankly, it’s you that should be wearing the captain’s armband (No offense to Carlos).

Thus, I humbly request that you, Landon Donovan, stay at Everton.  Not for the duration of your ten-week loan agreement.  Not for an additional month.  Permanently.  Play your heart out.  Earn your keep.  Tell the Toffees, Bruce Arena, Don Garber and the powers that be that it is in everyone’s interest for you to stay at Everton.  Why?  I’m glad you asked.

First, the US MNT needs you to stay.  In light of injuries to Charlie Davies, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay Demerit and Clint Dempsey, you will have to be at your best for the U.S. to get out of Group C.  Some or all of those players may recover in time to feature against England on June 12.  Regardless, your form and familiarity with English football will be invaluable assets.

Second, you have accomplished everything in MLS.  Three MLS Cups.  Five golden boots.  Not to mention Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the season, MLS Cup, and MLS All-Star Game.  In fairness, you should have more individual accolades, but that is beside the point.  The question is whether you want to run up the score or play at the highest level.

You cannot possibly be satisfied with a mere seven appearances for Bayer Leverkusen, six for Bayern Munich and two for Everton, can you?  I know you don’t want to be like Becks and subject the Galaxy faithful to any more games.  You aren’t getting any younger.  In six weeks, you’ll turn twenty-eight.  Again, I ask whether you will be satisfied having never made a serious attempt at the big leagues.

Third, your last chance for a big payday will be right after the World Cup.  I am certain that MLS and the Galaxy gave you a nice bump when you extended your contract last month, but wasn’t that just to force prospective suitors to top it if they want you badly enough?  There is no guarantee that your stock will rise any more at the World Cup – especially without your sidekicks to make you look good – so why not cash in now?

Let me put it a different way.  Over the last several months, your value has risen to an all-time high.  It started when you publicly chastised Becks for constantly having one foot out the door in Los Angeles.  Then, you made nice and quietly turned a disappointing season into a near-miss in the MLS Cup (not to mention being named MVP).  At the Estadio Azteca you were showered with a mixture of urine, vomit and Tecate, only to appear in a commercial for the Mexican lottery months later.  Then, you show up at Goodison Park and play like you’ve been with the squad for years.  I’m pretty sure that a goal against Liverpool will spark an entire generation of Toffee babies named Landon.

Why would you want to end this ride?  It’s admirable that you want to help MLS continue to build, but you should know that it will grow whether you stay or go.  If you leave, the league will receive a multi-million dollar fee for your services, which then can be used to purchase and develop more talent.  Not to suggest that you are replaceable, but you have already dedicated your career to MLS.  Furthermore, other second-tier leagues – Brazil, Argentina and Mexico come to mind – are able to thrive, despite being stepping-stones for the better players that come through their ranks.  By moving abroad you will honor your roots by showing your quality on a bigger stage.

Ultimately, you can always come back to MLS.

I have swallowed my pride, Mr. Donovan.  My heart is on my sleeve and I am asking you to make the right decision for you and your country.  Please stay at Everton.

Corey Bennett

P.S.  Thank you for cutting back on the pre-penalty wrist-kissing ritual.

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