Major League Soccer
Four-way negotiations for Donovan transfer continue.By Robert Wagman
(Saturday, March 3, 2001) -- Talks continue to bring United States national-team striker Landon Donovan to Major League Soccer. While there seems to be a consensus from the four parties involved in the negotiations that a deal would get done to bring the Redlands, Calif., teenager back from his German club Bayer Leverkusen, the process has become more complicated than originally thought.
On Wednesday morning, while Donovan was participating in a meal with his U.S. teammates before their 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Mexico that night, MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis, Donovanís agent Richard Motzkin, Bayer Leverkusen financial affairs manager Rainer Calmund and representatives of Donovanís sponsor Nike, met with others for several hours. The meeting was described by participants as cordial and constructive, but it was adjourned before several issues were resolved.
"Everyone is in agreement it is in Landonís best interests to spend the next couple of years, at least, in MLS," said one person at the meeting. "Everyone wants to get the deal done, but it unfortunately has become more complicated than we thought."
One complexity comes from an enhanced contract Leverkusen awarded Donovan after he was named the "Most Valuable Player" of the under-17 world championships in November 1999. His original four-year pact, which ran to the end of the 2002-03 season, provided a $125,000 signing bonus, an annual salary of about $100,000 and a clause that allowed him to buy out his contract for about $750,000. His new deal gave him more money, veto power over any loans or transfers, but also removed the buyout clause.
Donovan has been unhappy with his situation at Leverkusen. Attributing his dissatisfaction to not being able to crack the first team and homesickness, the Bundesliga team has expressed a willingness to loan the teen to MLS for a couple of years, hoping he and his game would mature and he would eventually return to Germany.
MLS has a policy of not accepting loans, opting to own the contracts of all its players, so Leverkusen set a multi-million dollar price tag for Donovanís contract. That price, said to be as much as $4 million is out of MLSís range, but recently Nike, which has Donovan under contract, stepped forward and offered to subsidize a transfer.
Two sources said one problem is that Donovan never signed his new contract even though he has been paid according to its terms. If the old contract is still in force, he would be able to buy his freedom making his move much less costly to MLS or Nike.
Another problem is that Leverkusen, should Donovan be moved, reportedly wants right to match any offer Donovan gets from any other Bundesliga team if he decides to go back to Germany from MLS. Also, should MLS sell him to teams elsewhere in Europe, Leverkusen reportedly wants a cut of the transfer fee.
"We have a ways to go," said Gazidis who expressed hope a deal would get done within the next few weeks.
Jones near signing new contract
It appears that Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Cobi Jones is ready to sign a new MLS contract which would make him the leagueís highest-paid American with a salary and guaranteed bonus in the $350,000 range and a side endorsement and licensing deal that might double his annual take.
One league source said he expected the negotiations to be completed this coming week.
The offer, which Jones has called "very fair" has been on the table for a couple of months, but Jones wanted to test the waters overseas. A recent trial with Ipswich Town did not result in a contract offer.
MRI tells Mathis no surgery needed
After a second medical opinion and an MRI, MetroStars midfielder Clint Mathis can rest easy that he will not need knee surgery.
Mathis has been bothered with minor pain in his right knee for the last month. The initial diagnosis was a cartilage tear that would require surgery to repair.
"My first thought was how could it be torn, it didnít really hurt all that much," Mathis said. "So I decided to get a second opinion and they did another MRI which showed no tear. I guess it was just some tendinitis. Iím glad they didnít operate and then found nothing."
Mathisí stock with the U.S. national team rose precipitously this week with strong performances against Mexico Wednesday and Brazil today.
Constant play has Olsen battered and bruised.
D.C. United midfielder Ben Olsen did not dress for either U.S. match, sidelined with injuries to both legs.
A primary reason world governing body FIFA has developed a unified international calendar is because players now compete almost year round, with the result being more injuries that are given less time to heal.
With United in MLS, for both the U.S. national and Olympic teams, and spending the MLS offseason on loan to Nottingham Forest of the English first division, Olsen has gone non-stop for two years. He is a battered and bruised player.
In his last match with Forest before joining the U.S. team in Columbus, Olsen was kicked in one ankle. Heíd already been struggling with pain in his other ankle and with an extremely sore hamstring. After working out with the national team for a day, he was scratched from the two U.S. matches this week.
Olsen, whose loan to Forest ends in May, has been hoping the move would become permanent, but it is not clear if Forest will meet MLSís asking price which is in excess of $2 million. Even if Olsen returns to United, he could be transfered back to Forest during the summer if the British club earns promotion to the Premier League.
Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.