Mark Bateman

David Beckham has been described in many ways throughout his career, from global icon to football genius, and away from the game he is revered as being a devoted family man.

But in 2009 the former England captain came in for some stinging criticism, when one man described him as a bad leader, a bad team mate and as someone who demonstrates a lack of commitment. That man was USA international striker and fellow LA Galaxy footballer Landon Donovan.

Donovan’s outburst came after Beckham, who had joined AC Milan on loan in the MLS off-season decided to extend his stay with the Italian giants, a move which sparked much controversy across the pond.

The reason that Beckham decided to stay with Milan was to feature regularly in Fabio Capello’s England team during their World Cup qualifying campaign and improve his chances of playing for the Three Lions in South Africa the next summer.

Beckham’s decision received mixed responses from those involved in the game, fans in Italy and England were happy that the former Manchester United midfielder was staying in Europe, but the LA Galaxy management, players and fans, as well as US soccer fans in general, poured scorn on their expensive signing.

What Beckham did was perfectly understandable when all the factors are taken into account. At 34 years of age this realistically is his last chance to play on the world stage and he was unlikely to feature with England had he played his football solely in the MLS which, while it is surely improving, is still not on a par with the quality and high standard of the major leagues in Europe.

Beckham had a rough reception upon his return to America, was booed by fans and had one or two high-profile confrontations with elements of the MLS crowd. But he soon put the unpleasant episode behind him as he made up with Donovan and the team very nearly won the MLS Cup, losing out to the Real Salt Lake in the final in Seattle.

This time around Beckham will return to Europe during the off-season again, once again donning the colours of AC Milan. He won’t be the only Galaxy player to fly the nest over the winter though. Landon Donovan, the very same LA Galaxy player so vocal over Beckham’s European escapades will sign for Everton in January on loan.

Donovan’s move is explained as being so he can get games under his belt in preparation for the new MLS season and the build up to the World Cup, where the 27-year-old will play a prominent part for the USA. Indeed, there are those that consider him the greatest player the United States have ever produced.

With America facing the likes of England in their group matches in South Africa it was a logical move for the striker as he will face a higher calibre of opposition each week in the Premier League, than he is used to in MLS.

But by doing this, Donovan has done exactly what David Beckham did and while the circumstances differ the reasons are the same.

Donovan’s stay on Merseyside is scheduled for just three months, but if he fires the goals in for the Goodison Park outfit, do not be surprised to see his deal extended into the MLS season, as playing in the Premier League will serve him better in the build up to a major tournament.

But as he will be representing the USA, fans of the Californian club and across the states will understand, and the sheer hypocrisy will go unnoticed.


* Disclosure: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the LA Galaxy lost to Seattle Sounders in the MLS Cup final. It should have said they lost to the Real Salt Lake in the final played in Seattle. This has been corrected.


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