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Four-way negotiations for Donovan transfer continue.

Nike intervention heats up talks for Donovan move home.

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Differing perceptions of Donovan transfer cloud outcome.

By Christopher Courtney
and Robert Wagman

(Monday, March 5, 2001) -- Major League Soccer and Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen apparently have significantly different perceptions of the deal they are negotiating to bring teen-aged striker Landon Donovan back to the United States.

Several German media sources reported that Leverkusen had finished the deal, including the nationa soccer magazine Kicker which said Donovan is being "loaned to the Los Angeles Galaxy."

MLS officials stated their opinion that talks remain ongoing, that it may be several weeks before they are concluded, and that if Donovan returns to the U.S. it has not been determined which league team he will go to.

German media outlets said that Leverkusen came to an understanding from meetings that took place in Columbus, Ohio, last week, and then over the weekend that Donovan would be loaned to the Galaxy for the next two MLS seasons. Specifically, these news organizations are using the German word ausgeliehen," which means "loaned out."

According to these reports, Leverkusen officials are confident Donovan will return to Bayer and eventually replace current high-scoring forward Ulf Kirsten. The team appeared to believe it would retain "the football rights" to Donovan through 2005, the end of his current contract period, and that the deal has been made possible through the intervention of Nike.

According to these German reports, Nike has a 10-year sponsorship deal with Donovan and wants to build him into the "Michael Jordan of U.S. Soccer."

Wrong on a number of counts, said MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis. "As has been reported, we are in ongoing discussions with Bayer Leverkusen regarding the possibility of a long-term co-sharing arrangement for Landon Donovan," he said in a written statement "It is hoped that an agreement can be reached in the next several weeks. At such time, MLS Communications will issue a release to the media."

As for Nike’s involvement, Gazidis said "Contrary to reports, there has been no involvement by Nike in these talks."

As for reports that Donovan, who turned 19 yesterday, would be assigned to Los Angeles, near his home of Redlands, Gazidis’ statement said, "nor has any decision been taken regarding Landon's allocation within MLS. Any comments in this regard are pure speculation. For the record, Landon has not made location a key to reaching an agreement with him. He would be very happy to be able to play on any team in MLS."

MLS has never used a loaned player, instead having all of its players under contract. Considering the league’s insistence that this policy will not change, it is not easy to define what "a long-term co-sharing arrangement" actually means.

Donovan has not returned to Germany after joining the U.S. national team for games Wednesday and Saturday. He will join the U.S. under-20 men in Florida as they train for the regional CONCACAF qualification tournament in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. The world championship is in late summer.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at Christopher Courtney is an American living in Wuerzburg, Germany, where he follows the fortunes of American players in Europe. He can be contacted at

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