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Landon Donovan’s latest loan move from the Los Angeles Galaxy to Everton was put together in urgent fashion as the English Premier League club seeks to avoid an $80 million relegation nightmare.
Once the transfer window reopens at the start of January, Donovan will return to the team where he spent three successful months in 2010. He is expected to play eight games in England before rejoining the Galaxy for the 2012 Major League Soccer season.
Despite the previous links with the United States international, a fresh loan move had not been seriously discussed by Everton boss David Moyes, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, or Donovan himself.
However, a run of poor form, a string of untimely injuries, and Everton’s restrictive budget limitations combined to convince Moyes that action was necessary if the team was to avoid getting drawn into a relegation fight.
It is estimated that losing a place in the EPL can cost a team around $80 million, a fate Everton never has suffered since the inception of the league in 1992.
Everton reached out to the Galaxy at the start of the week and it did not take long for all parties to agree to a loan. Donovan was keen to head back to England, where he played 13 games two years ago and established himself as a firm favorite among Everton fans.
Likewise, Arena quickly agreed to the move on the condition that Donovan would be back in time for Galaxy’s preseason training camp in early March.
Everton is in 12th place in the 20-team EPL but is just four points above the relegation zone and has won only five games all season. Its upcoming run of fixtures is daunting, with Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City all coming up in January.
Donovan’s final game will be Everton’s Merseyside derby against local rival Liverpool, a clash that rarely fails to provide excitement and fireworks.
The move will go some way to appeasing critics of Donovan, who have attacked him for remaining in the United States and MLS instead of testing himself in one of the world’s biggest leagues.
Former USA goalkeeper Brad Frieidel hit out at Donovan only last week, insisting that Clint Dempsey’s commitment to playing in England meant he was more deserving of credit.
“You get a player like a Landon Donovan, who in my opinion chose to take the easy road and stay in the States. It's much harder to ply your trade over here,” Friedel told the BBC. “(The Premier League) is the best league in the world to play in, and this is where (Dempsey) got better in my opinion. This is where he became one of the best the United States ever produced.
“The profiling in the States sometimes is a lot more to do with sponsorships than what you actually do on the field. And listen, I'm not trying to take anything away from Landon because Landon has been absolutely magnificent for the U.S. as well. I'm just saying he gets a lot more notoriety because it's sponsorship-driven over there.”
There will still be many who would like to see Donovan move to Europe full time, but that is increasingly unlikely now. The Galaxy is believed to have turned down an offer from Everton following the World Cup last year, and while the club is happy to let one of its main stars leave temporarily, it is hard to imagine them sanctioning a permanent transfer.