Donovan first crossed the pond for three months during the 2009-10 season, then he came back for another six weeks in 2012. In the 22 combined matches that he played for Everton, Donovan scored two goals and was highly popular among the fans at Goodison Park. Moreover, everybody around the organization appreciated the former USA Team star’s hard work and tough demeanor. The front office and then-manager David Moyes were quite interested in signing him to a permanent deal.
It only made sense that Donovan would want to sign with a solid English Premier League club and play against the best of the best, rather than return to the above-average Major League Soccer. But as Donovan recently explained to the New York Times, his loyalty is what led him back to the LA Galaxy:
I’m a very loyal person. I had promised Tim (Leiweke, the former executive with A.E.G., which owns the Galaxy) when he was here and Bruce (Arena, the coach) that I would come back, in exchange for letting me go there. And although things changed and they wanted me to stay, and there was a lot of potential talking to be done, immediately I said, “Thank you, but I promised that I would come back, and I want to go back.”
As for if he regrets his decision to never sign a long-term deal with the Premier League team, Donovan said he has “zero” regrets. But that’s not to say he didn’t enjoy his time over there, describing the Everton fan based by saying the following:
I remember the first week I got to Everton, one of the old guys that played there — he was sort of a legend of the club — we had a quick conversation. He said, “I’ll just tell you one thing: if you work hard, if you run hard and give everything you have on the field, they will love you no matter what you do.” Not that people missed this, but I try to be a hard worker. Maybe it gets overlooked, but for me it was an opportunity to go, I’m going to run until I can’t do it anymore. And I loved it. Their passion and their energy was incredible for me to feel. It was just this perfect marriage.
Assuming Donovan had stayed in Everton, one has to wonder if his more-recent career would’ve turned out differently. Despite being America’s top international scorer ever (57 goals), he was left off the USA Men’s National Team for the 2014 World Cup. Given that Donovan is a 32-year-old attacking midfielder, it’s very likely that his international career is over.
But he still has a very prominent role for the LA Galaxy and is the top MLS scorer of all time with 136 goals. So perhaps he did make the right choice sticking with the Galaxy in terms of longevity and extending his career.