Donovan: A man to man with Beckham

Nothing can come as close to an admission of Beckham’s failure to ignite US football as one of his team mates ripping him to shreds for his lack of commitment. A number of football pundits had voiced their skepticism about this move from the day he landed, including us. Yes, we have anointed ourselves as pundits. You can take it up with this blog’s ombudsman.
Today, Landon Donovan who had harsh words to say of Beckham backtracked a bit in an interview with the LA Times. Not as in words came out wrong. But as in these sentiments should have been expressed to Beckham himself and not to Grant Wahl, SI’s reporter who wrote The Beckham Experiment, the novel in which Donovan unloads on the superstar.
“Maybe he’s not a leader, maybe he’s not a captain. Fair enough. But at a minimum you should bust your ass every day. I don’t think that’s too much for us to expect. But that hasn’t happened.”
The relationship between the LA Galaxy’s emotional leader and the most expensive player in MLS history began to unravel.
“At the end of the day, they didn’t respect each other, they didn’t like each other, they didn’t talk to each other,” Alexi Lalas, the Galaxy’s former president and general manager, told Wahl. “And they merely tolerated each other on the field.”
Donovan plans to have a man to man with Beckham and explain his side and hopefully the Englishman who went off to Milan under Carlo Ancelotti on a short term loan will patch up with him and recommit to the team on his return.
It won’t happen. If it was a matter of a simple question of commitment and leadership that would be one thing but this is fundamental breach of trust because Donovan’s criticism extends to Beckham making money and attracting attention which have little to do with the game. This forms the crux of the fallout.
“For people who know soccer, they know the reason he makes the money and he gets the attention is not necessarily based on soccer,” he said of Beckham.
Basically Donovan is calling Beckham a fraud. He articulated what many did not want to say. A team mate saying it makes it even more damaging. A corollary to that would be, there is very little incentive for Beckham to pick up the pieces again if his raison d’etre is questionable. But Beckham is exactly that. The followers of the game know that. Not the drive bys who saw a match for the first time just to follow a media phenomenon. Beckham’s desire was unmatched first at Man Utd and then at Real but his MLS relationship is an abusive one. We saw him taking advantage by disappearing to Milan. It will be hard to change that.

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2 comments on “Donovan: A man to man with Beckham
  1. For people who know soccer, or any sport, they know that whether a player “recommits” to a team or not will have little to do with a rift or patch-up with a teammate. These guys aren’t on the schoolyard. They are two extremely competitive players who like to win — whatever either of their reasons are for joining or staying at a club. Beckham still has the only relevant incentive to pick up the pieces: winning.
    Outside factors may or may not have an impact but the kind of commitment you are talking about can only come from within. We did see it from Beckham for the Galaxy before the second half of last season, whether we see it again will have nothing to do with whether he and Donovan have a cuddle.
    Even after their relationship disintegrated (if we are to take the book excerpts at face value) Donovan didn’t shy away from Beckham’s service and Beckham didn’t shy away from trying to provide it. The problem in the dressing room during the last two seasons (as with most dressing room problems) is that the Galaxy were losing. Had the team been winning, I guarantee that the players would have cared less whether Beckham paid for a steak or had his grandmother in to run the club.
    Is it right that Beckham succumbed to whatever issues impacted his play last year? (please remember both his commitment and success on the pitch during the first half of the season when analyzing his involvement with the team) Of course not. Will he try and make it right? He’s always tried to in the past and people rarely change that drastically in a year’s time. But nothing surprises me in sport, so all I can say is that I certainly hope he does as he’s done before, and hopefully that helps bring up the team.
    Beckham and Donovan have a tremendous amount to offer each other and fans on the pitch and I hope they are both up for it for the rest of the season. The team and certainly the fans deserve both their best. If not, I guarantee it won’t have anything to do with Donovan’s feelings or where he expressed them.

  2. Pat
    I see your point to a certain extent. However, I take issue with how Donovan brought this out in the open. It was not professional. Not when you are on the same team. Similar statements proved to be the downfall of Roy Keane at Man Utd. Plus, the most damaging statement was not the one which questions Beckham’s commitment but the one that passes judgment on him. That can leave a scar. Especially when you learn you team mate has said these things about you from a third party source. They can make subtle differences on the pitch. Zidane did not like Thierry Henry because he thought he was too egotistical and would seek to pass to Trezeguet when Les Bleus played.
    Yes, all these wash away if the Galaxy was winning but that was the reason for Donovan’s frustration. I wish he had handled it better.

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