But What If Donovan Went To Bolton

Jay Bell dreams up a scenario where Landon and Stuie go clubbing together.

The MLS season is over and once again we keep hearing multiple rumors about loan options for the Los Angeles Galaxy’s two superstars.

Can celebrations occur elsewhere?

David Moyes has never once said that he would not like to have Landon Donovan back on his team. The more interesting thing is that the Blues also want to bring in David Beckham on loan as well. After his Achilles injury this season Beckham is not likely to go anywhere on loan this offseason, especially not a Liverpool club. Beckham has officially ruled out a move to Everton. At his age, he needs more rest than ever.

With Donovan, it is more complex. The lone American soccer star is younger, but has played 33 out of the last 36 months. After a 2008 MLS campaign that saw him score 20 goals and his team finish last in points, Donovan went on loan to Bayern Munich. Juergen Klinsmann wanted him. The club was in serious turmoil and Donovan ended up in a bad situation. Members of the board insulted him and Klinsmann lost his post before the end of the season. That summer Donovan led the US to the finals of the Confederations Cup. A lot of credit has been given to Donovan testing himself in Europe once again; becoming a better player.

The following winter, after an MLS Cup final appearance, he headed to Everton. American fans’ expectations were optimistic, but not over the top. What happened next will be remembered by US soccer fans for years to come. Donovan started immediately against Arsenal and became an important player for David Moyes. Everton faced all of the best teams in the English Premier League. Donovan faced a 10 week grind that he will never be able to replicate. In fact, few American players who spend their entire careers in Europe will ever face such a grueling stretch of pressured games of such high quality. The Merseyside club had begun the season with their annual slump, so they needed points in the second half of the season. Once the team got on a roll, then there was pressure to keep it going. Everton and Donovan met that pressure and continued to excel.

At the end of his loan Moyes was keen on keeping Donovan, but MLS’s asking price was too high. Questions have not ceased about whether he would join Everton again. Both Moyes and Donovan have repeated that they would like to reunite again.

If Donovan had to “test” himself in Europe, then he passed with flying colors (cliche, I know). He went on to be arguably the US’s best player in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. During a span of 6 months Donovan received redemption for his early failures in Europe as a youngster as well as his sub-par performance in the 2006 World Cup. So what’s next?

Donovan was visibly gassed down the stretch of the MLS season. He is still an elite athlete, but he was running on fumes. In England, things are different as well. Everton is not the same club they were. Sure, they may be having their annual early season slump, but its a very long slump. There is also uncertainty within the team. The reason that Everton was such a perfect fit last season was because they welcomed him in and gave him a comfortable environment. That might not be the case this season. Their fans are growing restless and may heap unfair expectations upon him.

Like peanut butter and jelly....

The solution? Bolton Wanderers FC.

I know. I know.

Calm down. You ready? Hear me out.

Donovan has no more “tests” he needs to take. He has taken a lot of weight off of his shoulders with his performances in England and South Africa. There is also no reason to go to another league. He has proven that he is the perfect type of player for the EPL and there is not a better league to consider.

Bolton is also a better team right now. Owen Coyle has transformed the team into a more free-flowing attack-minded team and they have been rewarded for it. Bolton currently sits 6th in the Premier League table and could be geared for a top half finish if they stay healthy. Their team morale is soaring high right now. It would be a positive environment with a playing style that suits Donovan’s. A big reason for Bolton’s success has been the quality play of Stuart Holden.

Not only is Holden a positive as a friend on the team, but he is also a shining example of how a player can thrive when given support. That’s what Donovan had at Everton last year: support. Coyle wanted Holden at Burnley. Then went he left Burnley for Bolton, he wanted Holden to come trial for him there. Once healthy, Holden immediately started two matches until his Premier League season was De Jong-ed in the US’s friendly against the Netherlands. If Coyle showed the same type of support for Donovan, then they would be able to replicate the environment he was so fond of at Everton.

Then there is the part about his place on the team. At Everton, he walked in and started. At this point, a loan for Donovan should be about keeping up fitness and form. Its doubtful that he would be asked to be a starter on a Bolton squad that is playing so well. However, they are thin. Donovan could be an impact player off of the bench as well as starting several matches so Coyle can rest some of his players.

Did I mention the financial aspects of the situation?  Bolton now has £93 million in debt.  That debt will likely lead to the dismantling of this team; some players may be sold this winter if the price is right.  However, Donovan could be a great short-term boost since the team would not need to pay a transfer fee.  The team’s wage bill is £46.4 million.  If Bolton pay Donovan the same salary he makes with the Galaxy, then a 10 week loan would only cost them approximately £361,000, only accounting for about 5% of their wage bill.  Coyle would be hard pressed to find a cheaper loan option with as much upside

Landon Donovan has “passed” all of the tests he needed to face. If he goes out on loan this offseason, then he does not need to focus on preparation or pressure. He should focus on his fitness and form for the upcoming 2011 MLS season. Everton was the perfect destination last season. It is not anymore. Bolton are a better club in a better situation. Donovan would be able to play for a quality side and face little pressure in a comfortable environment led by a quality manager. If Bolton keeps their team together, despite their debts, to make a push in the second half of the season then it would be a perfect loan destination for Landon Donovan.

21 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dth on 2010/12/07 at 6:42 PM

    Makes some sense. But of all the unrealistic scenarios involving USMNT players and Bolton, I’ve briefly entertained this one: Bradley to Bolton, with the team becoming the 4-3-3 team Roberto Mancini has always wanted (when he’s not sabotaging himself).


    • Posted by Kevin on 2010/12/07 at 10:41 PM

      Bradley to Bolton makes plenty of sense on the field. I wouldn’t be able to tell you if it’s financially realistic but it would make sense. Pair two CM that play for a like national team that can interchange defensive and offensive abilities. As both are commonly referred to as both attacking and defensive mids. I think of it as a strike partnership and you may call me crazy but hear me ou anyway. Holden can get the ball and possess it well he moves it well and passes well so Holden can get the ball… Hold… Pass… Bradley does his box box run… Pass… Holden covers. Seems effective and logiccal to me and the only comparison I could think of is strike partners.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/12/08 at 6:21 AM

        But Holden plays the more advanced position in the centre next to Muamba, who is the more ‘specialised’ DM. I personally think having Holden playing this role is wasteful of his talent, especially if it’s just to shoe-horn Bradley into the team.


        • Posted by Kevin on 2010/12/08 at 5:06 PM

          How is it wasting his talents by moving him to attacking midfield? I don’t know if im just misunderstanding you because I find it hard to believe that there’s anyone who thinks DM is his best position


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/12/08 at 5:18 PM

            Frankly I think he is better at DM currently than in an advanced role right now. Coyles is using him absolutely PERFECTLY as the advanced defensive midfielder responsible for creating turnover with Muamba as protection behind.

            Holden is smart enough to know when to contain and quick and now thisclose to being fierce enough to really excel.

            In many ways, he actually reminds me of Macherano with his speed to the attacker to close him down.

            I like him out wide, but not in the Prem as well. In terms of an attacking midfielder, I’ve learned that’s really not his game–he’s must better at linking or assisting.

            He’s the closest mirror to David Beckham in terms of style that I’ve seen. Beckham played both interior and exterior CM for Manchester United and now plays a tucked in RM position that Holden plays for Bob Bradley.


        • Posted by dth on 2010/12/08 at 7:20 PM

          See, what I had in mind when I proposed this was a 4-3-3 with Muamba, Holden and Bradley all in the same midfield, as a sort of mini-Chelsea/mini-Man City. I think that lineup, actually, would work much better than the Man City version, as Bradley and Holden are much more forward-thinking than—what? Yaya Toure? (and who else?) I don’t know, just spitballing.

          The rumors of Canales to Bolton would be the most convenient to Bolton, but I truly believe some big club will try to pull Cesc Fabregas Mach II: This Time It’s Real with Canales. Or, at least I would were my name Alex Ferguson (and I’d been knighted).


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/12/09 at 7:10 AM

          Kevin – sorry for the confusion, Sir. I meant that playing Holden as the out-and-out DM (the Deschamps as it were, the deeper of the two ‘holding’ players, would be wasteful. Matt clarified it nicely – Holden played the more ‘advanced’ DM, the DLP, in the Petit or Alonso role.

          DTH – I could see Holden playing in a midfield three a la Lampard or Ballack. My only question would be Muamba playing the Essien role. Not sure he’s good enough to pull it off.


  2. Posted by jhg on 2010/12/07 at 7:52 PM

    This makes no sense. And Landon would never go to an EPL club other than Everton (much like Beckham would never go to an EPL club other than ManU). Interesting rant, but it has nothing to do with reality. Landon will go to Everton again. Stuart will continue to thrive in the NW of England.


    • Posted by Bob on 2010/12/07 at 9:29 PM

      Agree! He has said on several occasions that he would only play for Everton.


    • A “rant”???


      • Posted by jhg on 2010/12/10 at 6:45 AM

        Why so sensitive? Once you put your piece out there and ask for readers to respond, you should expect to hear what we think. Or would you prefer to be ignored?

        Since there was no original reporting or actual journalism involved in your piece, I called it a “rant.” Not a pejorative. A description.

        I also used the word “interesting,” which is a compliment.

        And finally, if Landon goes back to England — and I think he should — it will be to Everton.


    • Posted by 4now on 2010/12/08 at 9:55 AM

      I know something else that has “nothing to do with reality”… jeez.


  3. Posted by Braden on 2010/12/07 at 10:49 PM

    Credit for going on the record with this. If it comes to pass you’ll receive just praise. Count me as one of the skeptical masses happy to see egg on his face. Donovan’s whole MO over the last 18 months seems to have been oriented toward stability, relationships, and feeling like he belongs. While the move to Everton, I’ll admit, was a stretch at first, Howard and Moyes convinced him that he was wanted and would be taken care of. He was, and it worked wonders. But what else has he done? He claims to have developed a new attitude toward the game as the place in life where he feels comfortable and credits his success to rediscovering how to love it again. He recommitted to the Galaxy and MLS before the Everton loan and even after it was a smashing success, did little to attempt a transfer more than some resigned comments about wishing perhaps to extend it. He rededicated himself to his role on the national team. Hell, he’s ever tried to reconcile with his wife Bianca. It seems like he’s a man who desperately wants to feel like he knows where he can be successful and happy and will make the most of it. For that reason, it wouldn’t shock me at all if he stays in California, rests up, and tries to spend time with his wife and prepare for the next season. But if he’s going off anywhere, I suspect he’ll go to be at the place and with the fans and players who he must see as an integral part of helping him get to the place he is know where he claims to be happy for the first time in ages. I agree with your sense that he has no more ‘tests’ to pass, but Chelsea or Barca though they may not be, Bolton would just represent a new test of a different sort. It’d be fun to see Holden and Donovan play together, but nothing about Donovan’s situation makes me think it’s likely to happen.


  4. Posted by John on 2010/12/08 at 9:05 AM

    Reading comprehension people….

    The beginning of this reads,

    Jay Bell DREAMS up a scenario where Landon and Stuie go clubbing together.

    It is a piece written on the basis of what COULD happen, not what WILL happen. Good grief, we all know that Landon is going to play for Liverpool (thus breaking blue fans hearts everywhere) and is going to go up against Zigic who will mutter to him “I WILL BREAK YOU”.

    This will lead to a training regiment in Siberia prior to the 2018 world cup, where Landon (over the hill at this point and out of shape) will train using wood chopping and climbing mountains (to synthesizers) in order to come back and score on the Russian national team (I know Zigic is Serbian but roll with me here) and win the World Cup for the United States. Also he will have the entire stadium (since this is going to happen in Moscow) chanting USA, USA.

    Also, Carl Weathers will be in goal, just to get his revenge.


  5. Posted by John Henry on 2010/12/09 at 8:51 AM

    To me, the most compelling possibility (and so far this is also in the land of dreams and fancy) is Donovan to Liverpool. They need a spark, not just on the field but also off. Donovan is the “American Captain”; he’d bring all the publicity – and jersey sales – that Liverpool need. Of course they also have new American owners, who would surely love to tap into the American market ($$$).

    So all those things, but they could also really really use him on the field too. They need offensive creativity, and Torres, Gerrard, and Donovan would be a sick trident. If Buddle could score close to 20 with Donovan’s 15+ assists, what could Torres do? Come on, NESV, make this happen!

    And yes, that really is my name. I’m not pretending to be the new LFC owner.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/12/09 at 9:20 AM

      After all the Everton badge kissing last season, moving to Liverpool would be a death wish!

      But that would be a great trident.


      • Posted by John Henry on 2010/12/09 at 9:48 AM

        Ha, yeah… although I never understood why LD took so immediately to Everton and that he publicly stated he’d only ever play for them. Why? I didn’t get it at the time and still don’t.


        • Posted by Paula on 2010/12/09 at 5:38 PM

          Well, he’s said it often enough: the fans took to HIM after seeing the kind of effort he gave. After being “rejected” by 2 other European teams I suppose he can be picky about the environment in which he wants to work, and having that kind of relationship with fans is an intangible benefit that being on a “big” team can’t replace.


        • Posted by John Henry on 2010/12/10 at 6:53 AM

          Yeah, that’s kind of my point: his reaction seems a bit naive.


  6. Posted by 30frames on 2010/12/09 at 3:17 PM

    It seems to me that Lando is NOT served by going back to England (or Europe as a whole) on loan. And I think he knows this. My bet is that Donovan is holding out for a permanent move – whether it is to Everton, Bolton or Schalke.

    Donovan looked great in his ten weeks at Everton last year and it would be hard to top that performance. In fact, the likely outcome is that whatever team Lando plays for on loan in Jan/Feb 2011, his play would be less attention grabbing and that would hurt his ability to arrange a permanent move to a big team across the pond. I am not saying Lando sucks, just that everything came together last year and Everton jumped up the table during his visit and he was busy scoring goals and assisting on many more. What if Everton gets him on loan again and Lando plays only ‘okay’ or what if he twists an ankle while EFC slips into the relegation zone? That would make his already hefty price-tag from MLS seem even higher and make a permanent move less likely to happen.

    Think about all the players who are on the bench at various teams (like Lampard for Chelsea) who’s status and imagined performance only grow and grow as they are forced to sit out. What is the phrase: absences makes the heart grow fonder? Or is it: be silent and be thought a fool, or speak and remove all doubt?

    I think Lando wants to play long-term in the Premiership, and the best way for that to happen is for him to stay in California until all the papers get signed.


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