Time for MLS, Donovan to get real

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For a few weeks, at least, Bayern Munich and MLS have been discussing what might be done with Landon Donovan: a short-term loan, a longer-term loan, an outright transfer, a transfer with a loan-back clause, etc.

This follows a 10-day trial/training trip/visit by which Bayern and Donovan sampled each other, and presumably by now, Donovan knows how strongly he wants to move to Europe, or specifically, Germany, despite two unhappy stints with Bayer Leverkusen.

His age, 26, and the Los Angeles Galaxy's dreary failure to reach the playoffs the past two seasons are weighing on his mind, not to mention the league's implementation of the Designated Player option, by which certain teams pay players a lot more money than Donovan earns to do a lot less.

Still not known is what Bayern will do with Lukas Podolski, who has been moaning about not starting and, by whining publicly, is forcing Bayern to field offers and deflect criticism, though general manager Uli Hoeness has stated publicly several times Bayern isn't going to sell him.

If it gets Donovan on loan, Bayern doesn't need to sell Podolski, either to clear a spot on the depth chart or generate funds it could use to purchase Donovan's rights. It would intensify competition between the two for playing time vacated by starting strikers Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose. Donovan could also be used in midfield, though comments from Hoeness and coach Jürgen Klinsmann -- a forward of some renown in his playing days -- suggest they see him strictly as an option up front.

This works out sweetly for Bayern, but what about MLS and the Galaxy? Coach Bruce Arena has a staggering task ahead of him to revamp the Lost Angelenos, and missing both David Beckham and Donovan during the preseason won't help. And the possibility that Donovan's loan could be extended or converted into a transfer down the road, or that Beckham could invoke a bailout clause following the 2009 season, won't improve the situation.

Whatever benefits Donovan might receive from tougher competition in Bayern training sessions and matches would be offset by fatigue and increased chances of injury flying back and forth across the Atlantic for qualifiers and other national-team commitments, should his stay extend beyond mid-March. By his own admission -- and evidence of the past few years backs this up -- he doesn't travel well. And if he's unable to garner regular playing time, a distinct possibility, there won't be much of that competition anyway.

This being Southern California, where entertainment is reality and vice versa, the Donovan saga wouldn't be complete without rumors that his wife, actress Bianca Kajlich, might soon be cut loose by the cancellation of the CBS sitcom Rules of Engagement, in which she plays one of the lead characters. Could this make her more amenable to a Munich move?

Don't discount the home life of a star soccer player as it affects decisions. Periodically, Barcelona attacker Thierry Henry complains about the distance and logistics that separate him from his daughter, who lives in London with her mother, Henry's former wife. His current locale doesn't prevent Henry from jetting across the Atlantic to catch the occasional Knicks game in New York, of course, but that's another issue.

Great wads of ambiguity are great for speculation and blog hits, but again, reduce MLS in stature -- though not to the extent of the Beckham Do-it-Yourself Clandestine Loan Caper, timed closely to the Previously Unacknowledged and Publicly Denied Three-Year Beckham Bailout Blockbuster.

MLS has kowtowed to Donovan long enough. It bought him back after a flop at Leverkusen on his terms: a spot with the Galaxy, a no-trade clause and, at the time, a higher salary than anybody in the league. If he insists on leaving, which is certainly within reason, MLS should declare negotiations open and invite Bayern, or any other team, to pay it. Donovan still would need to negotiate a salary and retain the right to reject a transfer to a team he didn't want to join.

Hard as it is to sell a valuable asset and a phenomenal player, MLS should insist on a transfer, not bandy about loan terms and fees and buy-backs and reciprocal arrangements. The league and Donovan should make a decision, and stick to it. For a change.