The point made by many is that $16 million for a 28 year old, who therefore has little resale value, makes little financial sense. Others note that Donovan is not good enough to merit that price tag. There are a few things worth point out here.
First, we are talking dollars not pounds. 16 million dollars is just 10 million pounds. Now 10 million pounds is a lot of money, but when you look at the outlays of the previous years – Robbie Keane at 28 to Liverpool for 20 million, Gareth Barry to Man City for 20 plus at 28 – this sum appears quite reasonable.
Second, buying Donovan gets a team access into the US market. Any purchase of Donovan isn’t just about how he performs on the field, it is about gaining a foothold into the growing US market. After the World Cup, he is by far the most recognized American soccer player and has become somewhat of a celebrity. The World Cup increased his value, especially to the league. This is why a team like Man City showed interest in Donovan. And why a league like MLS values Donovan highly.
Third, Donovan is an elite player. Donovan is really good and proved himself not just with Everton, but at the World Cup. At 28 Donovan has likely 4 quality years ahead and since he has evolved in his style of play such that he doesn’t rely on pace as much, he likely will be very good at 32 and will most likely be captaining the US in the World Cup.
Fourth, the depressed market and tight financing hurt Donovan’s move, not MLS’ valuation. If I was told before the World Cup that Donovan was available for 10 million pounds, I would have been sure he would have moved. Perhaps MLS should have read the market dynamics and lowered their price. But many teams overvalued players based on the market and this assumes that they wanted to sell. AC Milan wanted to sell Klaas Jan Huntelaar and they found a value at which the 27 year old could move and sold him for 13 million pounds. MLS weren’t particularly interested in selling and set their price at what they believed the market to be. There was a general lack of player movement this year and the market was clearly depressed, if this was an active summer Donovan would have had more suitors and likely would have been sold.