“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.”
It makes sense—Donovan’s Q rating and value to MLS have never been higher.
But is it also, at least in part, just an early negotiating ploy?
Alexi Lalas seems to think so. Last night on ESPN, during halftime of the D.C. United-Seattle game, the former Galaxy GM commented on Garber’s statement, saying, “No player is ‘not for sale.’” Lalas went on to suggest that, for the right price, even the most untouchable players can move in the transfer market.
“I don’t doubt the fact that commissioner Garber and everyone recognizes his importance to the league and to the Galaxy, but if there was ever a moment for him to be sold, this is it,” Lalas said.
Surely Garber and Co. are well aware of the fact that MLS will never get a better offer for Donovan than they would right now. So what is the magic number that would transform them into sellers?
The largest transfer fee ever paid for an MLS player is the $10 million that Villarreal shelled out to acquire Jozy Altidore from the Red Bulls in 2008.
How much higher would a team have to go to get Donovan? Answer: A lot. And how many teams are going to bid as high as MLS will want for the midfielder, who, while an excellent player, is not an international superstar, and is not that young, at 28? Answer: Not a lot.
There’s also the question of what Donovan wants to do. Recent reports have suggested that he’s reconciling with his ex, Bianca Kajlich, an actress who makes her living in LA. So the question could be moot if he’s content in LA.
But if an offer he liked came through, would the league pull a Taylor Twellman on him and effectively block a deal by demanding too much?
MLS wants to get the right price for its marquee player, but it should also want to avoid keeping him in the league against his will.
The transfer window opened yesterday, and runs until August 14th. Stay tuned.