LA Galaxy forward Landon Donovan has revealed that his loyalty to the MLS club prevented him from making a permanent switch to Everton.
Donovan, 32, spent separate loan stints at Goodison Park during the MLS offseason in 2010 and 2012, scoring two goals in 22 total appearances, while establishing himself as a firm fan favourite with his committed performances.
Describing his time at the club as “incredible”, there were talks about keeping him in England for the long-term, but the former US international stresses that he couldn’t break promises he had made to those back in LA.
“I’m a very loyal person. I had promised Tim [Leiweke, the former executive with A.E.G., which owns the Galaxy] when he was here and Bruce [Arena, the head coach] that I would come back, in exchange for letting me go there,” he told the New York Times.
“And although things changed and they wanted me to stay, and there was a lot of potential talking to be done, immediately I said, ‘Thank you, but I promised that I would come back, and I want to go back.’”
While Donovan’s time at Everton was regarded as a success, the MLS legend failed to establish himself in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen and later on loan at Bayern Munich in 2009, and admits that he was much better-suited to the English game and culture.
“One, Everton’s not in Germany,” he said. “The culture, it’s tough, but there are Americans who have done well. I wasn’t ready for it certainly when I was younger. The timing was right because I was playing probably at my best.
“David Moyes understood that club very well. He understood the dynamics of the fan base and how it all works, and what they like. And he was always very astute with his signings and he had to be because he didn’t have the money that the top clubs had. He watched me a lot. He was aware of what I did as a player and he knew that I would fit in. So all of that made for a really easy transition.
“I remember the first week I got to Everton, one of the old guys that played there — he was sort of a legend of the club — we had a quick conversation. He said, ‘I’ll just tell you one thing: if you work hard, if you run hard and give everything you have on the field, they will love you no matter what you do.’
“Not that people missed this, but I try to be a hard worker. Maybe it gets overlooked, but for me it was an opportunity to go, I’m going to run until I can’t do it anymore. And I loved it. Their passion and their energy was incredible for me to feel. It was just this perfect marriage.”
Having announced in August that he will hang up his boots at the end of the 2014 campaign, Donovan has been in remarkable form during his farewell tour, recording seven goals and 15 assists over the second-half of the regular-season, before netting a post-season hat-trick in a 5-0 win against Real Salt Lake earlier this month.
Now bidding to add a record-breaking sixth MLS Cup to go out on, LA will take a narrow advantage into Sunday’s Western Conference Championship second-leg at the Seattle Sounders following the 1-0 home victory on the weekend, with a potential final back at the StubHub Center awaiting them.
That would provide the perfect stage for a fabled ending, but the league's all-time leader in both goals and assists remains 100% focused on the return match in the Pacific Northwest at this point.
“We are confident. We’ve been there twice this year,” he told the Galaxy’s official website. “We thoroughly dominated in the first game, and we were the much better team for 82 minutes of the second game. We are full of confidence going there. We are going to get their best shot and we look forward to it.”