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Donovan wants to stick with San Jose
07-11-02
www.usatoday.com

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Landon Donovan's global soccer odyssey convinced him there's no place like home.

Citing his desire to remain close to his family and to boost soccer's importance in his homeland, the United States' star World Cup striker on Thursday said he wants to stay with the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer.

Bayer Leverkusen, the German Bundesliga club that signed Donovan as a 16-year-old prodigy in 1999, was expected to recall Donovan after the MLS season this fall. But Donovan thinks soccer is about to explode in the United States and he doesn't want to be sitting on a bench in Germany when it happens.

"We have spoken with (Leverkusen), and I made it very clear that I'd like to stay here, and not only from a soccer standpoint," Donovan said. "I love my family, I love my coaches, I love my organization here and there's something to be said for waking up every day and seeing sunshine outside. People often forget that."

Donovan, a native of the Los Angeles suburbs, spent two unhappy seasons in Leverkusen's training program, never getting into a match. MLS acquired him on loan last year and assigned him to San Jose, where he helped the Earthquakes win their first league title in 2001.

"I had a bitter experience and it's kind of hard for me to forget what happened there. ... Obviously the people at Leverkusen have a huge say in it, but I've made it clear that I don't want to be there."

Donovan's agent, Richard Motzkin, has had conversations with Leverkusen about Donovan's desire to remain on loan to MLS, where Donovan is one of the league's top attractions.

Leverkusen, one of Europe's most successful and wealthy clubs, seems unlikely to force Donovan to return to Germany against his will, though Donovan admits it has the power to do so under his contract.

Leverkusen officials couldn't be reached for comment late Thursday night in Germany.

Donovan received international acclaim for his performance at the World Cup, where he scored two goals while helping lead the United States' surprising run to the quarterfinals. He has scored seven goals in 28 appearances with the national team.

Donovan said he would likely play in Europe at some point in the next few years, but he feels his personal development as a player which theoretically could be hindered by playing against the second-tier talent of MLS is secondary to his personal well-being.

"To be honest, I'm not that worried about how far I develop as a player," Donovan said. "I've come to realize that there's more important things in my life. I've proven to myself that I can compete at the highest level.

"I just don't think it's that important to me to leave my family and friends. I would rather be around my family and friends and my teammates with the Quakes and make less money to be close to the people that I love."

Donovan has three goals in nine appearances this season with the Earthquakes, who lead MLS at 10-5-2. Donovan will be in the starting lineup when San Jose plays at Dallas on Saturday night.

Since returning from South Korea, Donovan has been a ubiquitous national presence and many have called him the poster boy for the revitalization of American soccer.

He has appeared on dozens of talk shows, including the late-night shows of David Letterman and Craig Kilborn. He threw out the first pitch at an Oakland Athletics game, and earlier this week, he received an ESPY award as the nation's best male soccer player.

"I almost forgot that I was a soccer player for a while," Donovan said. "It's been as hectic as you can imagine. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to rest in a little bit. ... I'm a 20-year-old kid who's kind of going crazy right now, because I don't know what it's all about. I'm just out there having fun."

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