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Donovan's choice would be the U.S.
But U.S. World Cup star's rights are owned by German team
07-2002
Dallas Morning News

Landon Donovan is 20 years old and everybody wants him.

This year, Donovan has won an ESPY award for "The Best Soccer Player," and is being fought over by females all over the nation who have dubbed him America Online's "Crush of the Month."

"The whole thing is fun," Donovan said over a screaming crowd of autograph-seekers.

But another group of individuals are fighting over Donovan, and it's not for his boyish good looks-it's for his playing rights.

Donovan's playing rights are held by Bayer Leverkusen of the German Bundesliga. Bayer Leverkusen gave San Jose temporary rights to Donovan, allowing him to play in the MLS until it wanted him back.

After his success in the 2002 World Cup, including scoring two goals, the poster boy for U.S. men's soccer might have to return to Germany.

"I think the MLS and Bayer Leverkusen are meeting during the All-Star break to decide my future," Donovan said. "[Bayer Leverkusen] obviously doesn't want a player who doesn't want to be there."

Now the American star is faced with a decision. In his second season with the Earthquakes, Donovan has become loyal to the team and welcomes the opportunity to be closer at home. A native of Redlands, Calif., Donovan is about an eight-hour drive from his family-unlike the nine-hour difference in Germany.

He also has bitter feelings toward Bayer Leverkusen.

In 1999, Donovan left his friends and family for the promises of playing time, big money, and top competition. But Donovan spent his time in Germany sitting on the bench.

"[Bayer Leverkusen] kinda wrote me off," Donovan said. "Now that I've done well they want me back again. Obviously I don't want to go because I had a terrible experience from a soccer standpoint. I never played."

Donovan and his agent have spoken with Bayer Leverkusen and Donovan said that the club has agreed to do what it can to keep him in America. His ties here are too strong and Donovan isn't ready to give that up.

"My family comes to every game--every game," Donovan said. "I would miss that. I would miss them. I can't go back."

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