Wasn’t this supposed to be Thierry Henry Day.
Upon little prompting, Don Garber today issued a proclamation that Landon Donovan would be enjoying sunsets right where he is now, in California for the foreseeable future…..with an MLS paycheck.
His precise wording:
“He’s become a real soccer hero,” Garber said. “MLS needs soccer heroes, and we have a great American soccer hero playing for us in LA, holding the torch for the sport in our country, and that’s very important. I don’t believe that it’s something we can do without.”
Garber’s words are completely rooted in fact. I asked the question on Twitter last week if a .3 rating (it was actually .39) was low for the Donovan MLS return match on the evening of July 4th.
Turns out the Galaxy-Sounders match was actually the highest rated MLS match on the season. Tells you all you need to know right there.
The Shin Guardian is, per usual, less interested in the emotional side of this. The question of whether Donovan should be “allowed” to go and “pursue his dreams” is not our focus.
The main question here for Don Garber and friends is “Can MLS achieve a transfer fee that takes into account Donovan’s present and future value if Landon were to head to England or elsewhere?”
That financial number is hard to quantify; but it’s easy to see the league cannot afford to see Donovan leave right now and, worse, is not ready for it.
The first addendum is–who picks up the slack for Donovan and bears the torch of the league? Frankly you’re looking for a someone with an appetite for scoring or attacking, with some brand currency, and who is likely American.
If you’re thinking Stu Holden as the next in line, you’re probably correct, alas Holden is looking to test the goalkeepers in the EPL.
After that? Not Sacha Kljestan–who is now gone and closer to playboy than icon.
If you’re looking beyond American offenders, you’ve got names like David Beckham (injured and forever identified with England), Kyle Beckerman (not skilled, sexy or dynamic enough) , Thierry Henry (who has yet to play a match in MLS), Robbie Findley (the World Cup attendee hardly scores and doesn’t start.) or Edson Buddle (inconsistent and recently retired from personal issues).
In short, who has MLS groomed? Anyone? Anyone? That’s your fault MLS.
So with no heir apparent, MLS has to fetch a decent pound for Donovan as Donovan is the torchbearer.
Thus, there is really no reason for Don Garber–on a day when MLS is adding a celebrated player–to make his Donovan statement.
In short, if Garber wanted to send a message to EPL teams chasing Donovan, here’s what you say: “No.”
By Garber issuing the Donovan statement today, it only has a negative effect.
First, it offers Donovan an even stronger negotiating position. Yes, I know Donovan just signed an extension, but with these statements, Donovan–though he likely won’t–could make some demands to MLS and the Galaxy.(“Hey, I need some time off.”)
If Donovan is carrying the league, why not ask for a percentage of it. Seems fair with Don’s declaration today.
Next, it disrespects all the other stars in the league that have helped to grow it. Players like a Brian Ching or a Brian McBride. Is it really just a one player league. What about the other ambassadors? Nice slap in the face there.
Finally, it sells what the league has become short. This is a league that just “acquired” Thierry Henry, built a magnificent new stadium and is expanding. Way to send the message that as Donovan goes, so goes MLS.
You think advertisers–Castrol–want to or should hear that?
Who knows if this was just a negotiating ploy by Garber or not. What I do know, is that the commissioner of the league–it’s spokesperson–made a statement today that only can cause a little bit of strife and sold the recent growth of MLS short.
Poor move, Don Garber.
P.S. If you are a fan of business strategy–specifically competitive business strategy–and want to understand the relationship between public relations (and statements like today’s by Don Garber) and business competition, I highly, highly recommend Michael Porter’s Competitive Strategy. Best business book, I’ve ever read.