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No8: Landon Donovan, USA

By Lawrence Booth

Come on then, hit me with it You mean you don't know? He's the best young player to come out of the United States ... ever.

What, better than Alexi Lalas? Yes, and his hair's not ginger and he doesn't have a silly beard. Donovan is far more 21st century. He's a small, fast, clean-shaven goal-scoring machine, and he was featured in Sports Illustrated almost before he'd had the chance to be clean-shaven. He's a Californian dream and the women love him.

So he's the Western Seaboard's answer to Michael Owen? Not quite. Donovan is tanned and has perfect teeth.

Say no more You've twisted my arm. Donovan won the Gold Ball at the 1999 Youth World Championships as the tournament's Most Valuable Player, helped the USA to fourth place at the Sydney Olympics, and scored on his full international debut against Mexico at the age of 18.

Something of a child prodigy, then There's more. A year later he was signed by this season's Champions League finalists Bayer Leverkusen, which simply doesn't happen to 19-year-old Yanks.

He must have tormented the Teutons with his sizzling pace? Er, no actually. He didn't make a single first-team appearance for the pharmaceutical-sponsored giants. But he's causing tremors with his new side, the San Jose Earthquakes.

That's terrible I know.

So exactly how has he registered on the Richter Scale? Hypocrite. He's helped his side to the top of the Western Conference ...

Oooooh ... and he's one of only two players in the side to have his own Bobblehead Doll.

Well why didn't you say? He also has the startling confidence of a bespectacled five-year-old in an American sitcom. He thinks the Germans lack creativity and reckons the USA will win the World Cup (although getting past Poland and Portugal might yet prove beyond them). And he's compared himself to Pele.

Really? No.

Oh. But I bet he calls the beautiful game 'soccer'Actually, he prefers to talk about his beautiful twin sister, Tristan.

Not to be confused with Tristan Donovan, Jason Donovan.

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