American international Landon Donovan’s Everton career lasted just two 10-week spells, but during those brief periods he won the universal admiration of Evertonians and found a permanent place for the club in his own heart.
Arguably the greatest American footballer of all time, Donovan joined Everton on three months’ loan from LA Galaxy in January 2010. Major League Soccer plays to a summer calendar, affording its players the opportunity to turn out in Europe. A year earlier Donovan had appeared on loan at Bayern Munich. Lithe,pacey and a fine finisher, Donovan added élan and guile to the right side of an impressive Everton midfield. He joined a team that had struggled to find form in the first half of the 2009/10 season and his presence, wearing the famous number nine shirt, helped rejuvenate the team. After his arrival Everton lost just twice more in the league that campaign and fine goals against Sunderland and Hull City cemented his reputation as a crowd favourite. Indeed, Donovan established a close rapport with Evertonians and said that he would ‘jump’ at the chance to sign for Everton. But when his spell came to an end in March 2010 LA Galaxy wanted to hold on to their man and the money to buy him was not there in any case.
‘I’m 28 years old now and I’ve played over 100 times for my country, I’ve also played a lot of league games in different parts of the world,’ he told EvertonTV in an emotional farewell interview. ‘But I’ve never met a fan base like this, either playing for them or as an away player. Forget about football for a moment, this is a experience I’ll never forget.’
TWO years later, with Everton struggling after a slow start to the 2011/12 season, Donovan returned on a similar deal. His pace and urgency lifted his team-mates and added fresh impetus to a flagging season. He returned to California in February 2012 without any further goals to his name, but with his special relationship reinforced.