When I talked to Landon Donovan after the season ended about the possibility of going to Europe, I specifically asked him if he thought he had something to prove and if that was a reason behind his desire to go try his luck in the Old World again.
He said no, flat out, he didn't need to prove himself to anyone.
I'm not sure it's that straightforward, though. Landon is a polarizing figure, which is perplexing. He's the best American soccer player ever. I don't think you.... no, I know you can't argue that. His accolades and statistics and accomplishments speak for themselves. But I would venture to guess that he isn't, I don't know, in the top three of most popular American soccer players. Tough to say. He may be, although Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Jozy Altidore have huge followings as well.
But that may be the difference right there. Dempsey and Howard long ago left MLS for good, haven't returned and haven't mentioned a desire to return. Altidore's popularity is fueled by his potential; that he's now on a Spanish club team has only fed into that.
Donovan's time in Europe didn't work out. He came here to MLS, tore it up and many wondered why he couldn't do the same in Europe, where it supposedly really counts.
So now Donovan is back on his way. And he needs to prove himself. Now, here's where the thoughts may differ. Paul Oberjuerge wrote a piece on his blog about Landon's return to Europe and how he feels it's fueled precisely by the constant insults and jeers he gets from the same American soccer fans who massively cheered his goals in the 2002 World Cup, the same American soccer fans who would plug him into their preferred U.S. lineup, the same American soccer fans who have cheered after scoring each of his record 37 U.S. goals, and yes the same fans who were disappointed in his performance in the 2006 World Cup.
I tend to think that Landon is tired of many things; the league, the Galaxy, maybe the relative routine his life has settled into, maybe the long MLS offseason, and the insults and jeers as well. But I do think he has to prove himself. I think he has to prove to himself that he can hack it, that he can succeed at the highest club level possible.
Anyway, check out Paul's post. He includes his dream scenario for this entire Donovan-to-Bayern situation.