Landon Donovan's proposed loan move to Everton isn't official yet, but it does seem clear the Los Angeles Galaxy star is headed back to Europe somewhere to keep in form during the MLS offseason.
Trying to extrapolate how he'll do after failing during three previous tries in Europe is difficult, partly because there's not much evidence to go on.
His stints with Bayer Leverkusen were brief, and Donovan himself admits he wasn't ready for the high stakes. His brief time at Bayern Munich in early 2009 was an odd affair -- other than the embattled coach, Jürgen Klinsmann, no one on the squad thought much of the all-time U.S. leading scorer.
Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge condemned Donovan with very faint praise, calling him "interesting," while club president Uli Hoeness was far more scathing after both Donovan and Klinsmann had been excised from Bayern.
"Klinsmann's only idea for strengthening the squad in January was Landon Donovan," Hoeness said soon after Klinsmann was fired in April. "[Youth-team coach] Hermann Gerland told me the guy wasn't fit to play for his reserves."
The one Bayern Munich teammate possibly in Donovan's corner was German national-team striker MiroslavKlose, who described Donovan as "outstanding," and "quality." Klose backed up his words as well, extending his friendship to the extent that Donovan recalled the German's kindness as one of the best parts of his experience in Europe.
People will debate endlessly whether Donovan is best suited to succeed in Europe in a specific league -- and whether his inability to latch on to a club in Germany is due as much to the club being incapable of adjusting to a player with a different skill set. The arguments are rather academic, though, as Donovan has never played league matches in other European countries.
With Everton in hot pursuit, however, that could easily change. This time, Donovan has support from a teammate even before taking the field. "He is a tremendous player," goalkeeper Tim Howard told Everton's official Web site. "He'd be a good addition to any team and particularly this team."
That ringing endorsement from his U.S. teammate isn't exactly a surprise, but it can help pave the way for Donovan a bit, especially given the high esteem the Everton faithful has for Howard. Americans haven't always been instant hits in England, but the ones who have done well have paved the road for others. For every Claudio Reyna and BrianMcBride who succeeds, that's another potential chance for a Clint Dempsey or a Brad Guzan. So it's no surprise to see Howard talking up Donovan's skills like a scout.
"He can play wide right and underneath the strikers," Howard said. "He has good pace with the ball and he runs and runs all day long. He's got a fantastic touch with both his left and right. He can cross the ball well and shoot the ball well -- he has got a bunch of attributes that mean he'll do well in the Premier League."
Is Everton the right place for Donovan to make a fourth try in Europe? Donovan himself says he has closed the door on the Bundesliga, that he's certain that's not the league for him. Many have called for him to try his luck in Spain's La Liga. That also would be intriguing -- Spain has the silky passing game and quick runs that seem to mirror Donovan's talents.
But what no squad in La Liga has is another American getting starting minutes and vouching for Donovan to be of crucial assistance. Howard's belief may help give Donovan the essential boost of confidence needed to make the spotlight his own.
As Donovan no doubt learned from growing up in Tinseltown, it's not always what you know that counts -- it's who you know. That alone could be enough for Donovan to succeed at Goodison Park.