Brett Favre came out of retirement twice. And when he retired the third time, I wondered if it was truly for good or whether he was just hoping his teammates and the media would come running to his little house in Mississippi to coax him back onto the football field. However, once he was out of the game for a season, no one questioned whether he would come back again. He was too far out of practice, not used to reading defenses, and most importantly, not physically fit enough for the rigors of the NFL.
Michael Jordan also came out of retirement twice, though the first time he quit to play minor league baseball. Regardless of what everyone expected from him when he returned to the NBA (and he only won three more NBA titles), he was still a professional athlete in his time away from basketball.
And this is what makes Landon Donovan’s decision to play for Club León in Liga MX such a mystery. Even more questionable is why León would take the 35 year old.
Donovan was a US soccer icon, scoring the goal to qualify the United States for the knockout stages at the 2010 World Cup. After an early 2013 sabbatical, Donovan led the United States national team to victory in the 2013 Gold Cup. Yet despite his success with the LA Galaxy the following year, then-US manager Jürgen Klinsmann left Donovan out of the squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. At the conclusion of the 2014 MLS season, Donovan, at the tender age of 32, retired from soccer after capturing his fourth MLS Cup.
After more than a season away from the game, Donovan returned to the Galaxy in September 2016, a move that was discussed during the latter portion of the first ever edition of The Sports Sermon. We raised questions as to just how effective Donovan would be for a team in the midst of a playoff push. The unretirement screamed of publicity for the Galaxy, who needed to make a statement after the announcement of a second Los Angeles club, LAFC. He retired when the Galaxy were knocked out of the playoffs, but after the actions of the past year, I’m left wondering if the choice to return may have been to create publicity for Donovan himself, instead of for the Galaxy.
Since retiring from the Galaxy, Donovan has been involved in the MLS expansion push for a team to land in San Diego. When Sunil Gulati, the US Soccer president, came under fire and eventually decided to step down, Donovan announced that he might run for the position. And now he’s playing in Mexico. It’s a bizarre turn of events that came seemingly out of nowhere.
Donovan says he wants to win championships in Mexico. The club he joined has won three Liga MX titles since the 1950s and its last Copa MX title in the 1970s, so he picked a great team for that. He tweeted, “I don’t believe in walls, I want to go to Mexico, dress in green, and win trophies in León,” and in pretty solid Spanish too.
Presidente: me encantó la Ciudad. Es la mejor afición. @clubleonfc es un equipo histórico y ganador. No creo en los muros, quiero ir a México, vestirme de verde y ganar trofeos con León. Nos vemos muy pronto! https://t.co/Xqm4jX2hW7
— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) January 13, 2018
I don’t care if he thinks its a political statement though. After his actions this year, it’s not.
This isn’t Ronaldinho going to Mexico, where it doesn’t matter at all that he’s unfit because he does magical things with a ball that no mere mortal can. No one hates Ronaldinho. Donovan, on the other hand, may be the second most hated American in Mexico (no prizes for guessing who number one is) due to the animosities between the American and Mexican national teams . I fail to see how he’ll win over any fans with his inevitably low fitness. No matter what he says, this is Landon Donovan deciding that it’s time for the world to hear about Landon Donovan once again. And I don’t like it one bit.