CARSON, Calif. — Just a few months after Landon Donovan thought he might be finished as a professional footballer, he extended his contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday with his passion rekindled.
Donovan agreed to a multiyear contract extension that could make him the highest-paid player in MLS if he reaches incentives within the deal. His decision to stick with the Galaxy is another turn in an eventful year for the fleet-footed midfielder widely considered the best U.S. player in history.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished,” Donovan said. “I’m very happy in the present, but I have a lot more to achieve. This is not a reward for what I’ve done. This is something I’m going to earn.”
After winning his fifth MLS Cup title last December, the 31-year-old Donovan spent the winter on a self-imposed sabbatical, battling burnout and exhaustion from 14 years as a pro. He returned in late March to fulfill the last year of his current Galaxy contract, but missed the first month of the MLS season and fell out of favor with U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
But the top scorer in U.S. national team history has been rejuvenated by the Galaxy’s unwavering support and his resurgence with the U.S. team.
With the perspective of time and distance, he has embraced the prospect of more challenges to chase, including a fourth World Cup appearance.
“Was this day ever in doubt? Yeah, for a lot of reasons,” Donovan said. “I didn’t know five months ago if I wanted to keep playing much longer. This summer, through a lot of work and through a lot of support from friends, family, the Galaxy, it’s now very clear to me that I want to keep playing. I really enjoy this game. I love it. I’ve found my passion again, and I’m excited about it.”
Donovan has been with the Galaxy since 2005, winning three of his five career MLS Cup titles in his native Southern California.
Los Angeles patiently waited for Donovan to return to his current form while negotiating a long-term deal for his future. Donovan said the deal “was as much about respect and feeling wanted as anything,” and the Galaxy made sure Donovan knew how much he means to the club and the American game.
Donovan, who previously played with Bayer Leverkusen and Everton, attracted attention from European clubs this year while his MLS future was uncertain. Donovan emerged from his hiatus and subsequent negotiations totally committed to MLS and the Galaxy, saying he’s not even interested
in going to Europe on loan during the winter.
Donovan is one of Los Angeles’ three designated players — who can receiver higher salaries than MLS regulars — joining Irish national team star Keane and U.S. national team defender Omar Gonzalez.
“We think we’ve got three great designated players,” said Bruce Arena, the Galaxy’s longtime coach and general manager. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to have them. I think we’ve got the three best in the league.”
Donovan returned to the international stage last month with a flourish, scoring five goals and showing off his remarkable playmaking ability while leading the Americans to the CONCACAF Gold Cup title.