Steve Davis at Daily Soccer Fix gives his take on what Donovan could have been had he stayed in Europe. Steve argues that had Donovan continued on at Bayern Leverkusen he would have likely become another Eddie Johnson or Damarcus Beasley. In other words, a player who never gaining the trust of this European manager warms the bench and sees his skills stagnate and decline. Davis’ argument provides an important corrective to the constant Landon bashing asserting that he didn’t have the stones to stick it out in Europe. However, while the alternate scenario drawn up by Davis is certainly plausible, there is also another scenario that I think is equally plausible – that Donovan would have become an elite world class player, resembling an American Michael Owen.
Donovan is no doubt a great player, perhaps a world class player, but I think that there is little debate that Donovan could have been a better player had he emerged as a regular at Bayern. While some might see comparing Donovan to Owen in his prime as crazy, I have to remind you of the 02 World Cup quarterfinals:
With his pace and technical ability, Donovan could have emerged as a true goal scoring striker. Bayern would have likely sought to clarify Donovan’s position, likely deploying him as a second striker off of a target forward. But playing in MLS, as well as for the US, Donovan lost a true position. For the Galaxy and the US, they simply had to get Donovan on the ball deploying him in deeper roles in the midfield or out wide. We saw this throughout this last World Cup cycle with the constant struggle to find Donovan a position. I think this, along with the lower quality of MLS, lengthy offseasons, as well as limited experience in big time games, retarded Donovan’s development and contributed to Donovan looking a shadow of his 2002 self during the 2006 World Cup.
While Donovan has now settled and come into his own one has to wonder if Donovan would have come into his own much sooner and at an even higher level. This is all academic and Donovan chose not to cut it abroad, One has to wonder if he had toughed it out and been playing against top quality competition in a top European league what type of player would have emerged. I think there was a decent chance he could have been like this: