Considerable ink has been spilled claiming that there is tons of pressure on Landon Donovan to show that he can cut it at Everton during his short loan. This move is seen as critical to his career. Having "failed" in his previous stints in Germany, it is argued, this is Donovan's last chance to show that he is a world class player.
In reality, Donovan has almost nothing to prove in England.
Financially, Donovan has very little riding on it. Prior to the loan, Donovan signed a new lucrative deal with the Galaxy that doubles his salary and ensures that no matter what happens over the next six months, Donovan's future is secure. Now, an outstanding performance could see him make considerably more if bought by a big club, but it is also quite possible no team will meet MLS' valuation of Donovan no matter how well he performs, due to his age.
So what this is really about is his legacy. Sure a dominating performance in England will enhance his stature. Such a showing would no doubt boost his global rep and will serve to mollify many of his American critics who never forgave him for giving into his homesickness at Bayern Leverkusen and returning to California and to MLS earlier this decade. But in reality Donovan's status as America's most valuable player and perhaps its greatest player in history will not be effected by the outcome at Everton.
Over this past year we saw how important Donovan was to the US. In recent friendlies the US has sputtered without him and throughout qualification and in the confederation cup he was the engine of the team. No matter what happens at Everton, Donovan will still be our most valued player come June.
In the larger scheme of things Donovan's legacy will be determined much more by his performance at the World Cup. After his vapid performance in '06, where he gained the reputation of shirking from big games, the pressure will be on Donovan to lead the way in South Africa. South Africa, not Mersyside, is what really will make or break Donovan's legacy.
With that understood, Donovan should realize that even if he never gets on the field the move would still have been worth it. His loan to Everton is as much about staying sharp during the long MLS layoff (and therefore ensuring Donovan will be playing at his peak come South Africa in June). A while back I credited his outstanding 2009, to his loan move at Bayern Munich last winter. Let's hope Everton is similarly able to prepare Donovan for 2010, as Bayern did for 2009.