Dec 25, 2012, 12:00 PM EST
Landon Donovan has been such an intriguing figure for so remarkably long, but that’s hardly the surprising part.
It’s how many different ways Donovan has managed to make himself such an intriguing figure that really has become a stunner.
First, he captured the imagination of domestic soccer insiders as the kid who signed a professional contract at age 16 with a German club. Hmmm.
Then he showed at a young age what a talent he would be in MLS, and shortly after became something just short of an international star with a breakout performance at World Cup 2002.
Then Donovan began the slow drift into polarizing territory, a figure who had supporters and loud detractors – including some prominent media voices – for his choice to play in MLS rather than perhaps stretch himself internationally.
Only, then he did stretch himself internationally, at Everton – and what a whiz-bang job he did there at Goodison Park! Somewhere in between, Donovan married a Hollywood actress, by the way.
Also into spin cycle let’s drop this: Donovan disappointed most everyone with a deflated 2006 World Cup, but scored one of the most memorable U.S. goals ever at the 2010 World Cup. That’s three World Cups, for those counting.
And now …
The United States’ all-time leading scorer managed to become one of the truly intriguing figures of 2012 by, of all things, talking about walking away from it all. Truly, who saw that coming?
The first starburst of shocking stories came out in the summer. His talk of early retirement at age 30 perhaps could have been written off as a passing thing – only he kept talking about it.
Donovan, who still has a chance to be Major League Soccer all-time leading scorer and assist leader, helped guide the Los Angeles Galaxy to a second consecutive MLS Cup crown in early December.
But as he sat on the podium minutes after the final whistle, Donovan once again let on that perhaps he’s had enough.
If anyone has earned the right to walk away on his terms, it’s Donovan, the very face of domestic soccer – the national team and MLS – for so many years now.
It would be a shame, but the man has earned the right.
Either way, he’s ever the story.
Others in the Top Three – No. 3: Jurgen Klinsmann
Up next: No. 1 …
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