Despite his age, Donovan has more than earned his money

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The man is 31, almost retired less than a year ago, and for a fleeting moment lost his place on the U.S. National Team.

And yet, he still more than deserves the money he got today from the L.A. Galaxy – he deserves it.

Now, if you look at it strictly in terms of what he brings to the pitch for L.A. and translate that to money, of course he’s being overpaid.

BUT – let’s recap (with a little help from our Steve Davis) what Donovan has given both Major League Soccer and the United States, and it will become overwhelmingly clear why this is a no-brainer for the Galaxy. Most of this is obvious, but it adds up:

  • With three more years, he will very likely become the MLS’s all-time leading scorer and assists leader. Obviously records are meant to be broken, and barring a catastrophe within the league those numbers will eventually be eclipsed by someone.  However, will anyone ever hold both again?
  • All the smart money would certainly go down on this being the last contract Donovan will sign in his playing career.  Outside of his brief time at Bayer Leverkusen in the beginning of his career, every contract he’s ever signed has been in Major League Soccer.  For the United States to say it basically has kept a hold of one of the country’s most important and iconic figures in the sport is a fantastic accomplishment.  Landon dabbled in European soccer a few times, but found he was always at home in MLS.
  • Donovan has over 150 caps for the USMNT, and is 2nd all-time in that category.  He also has the most goals in USMNT history, by a good amount, as well as the most assists. And those numbers are sure to continue climbing.
  • He’s led the San Jose Earthquakes to two MLS Cups, and the Galaxy to three – including the last two years.
  • He’s won the MLS MVP once, won the All-Star game MVP once, won the Golden Boot once, has the most goals in MLS playoff history, and has the most combined regular season and playoff goals in MLS history.
  • He still has some left in the tank.

source: APWith all that, how could Los Angeles refuse?

If you’ll allow me to go off-sport for a moment, the situation reminds me a lot of the Derek Jeter contract negotiation with the New York Yankees in 2009.  At age 36, Jeter and the Yankees had a bit of a tense public contract battle (akin to some of the rumors of Donovan leaving, though nowhere near as hostile or high-profile).  However, it was always going to end the same way – with Jeter essentially handed a blank check as a token of appreciation for his legendary service to the club and league.  Jeter ended up with 3 years and $51 million.

In Donovan’s case, it ended the same way.  While we don’t know the length of Landon’s contract just yet – he joked it was “200 million dollars per year for 20 years” a his press conference – my educated guess is that it’s around the same, 3 years.

At around $4.5 million per year (above $5 million with bonuses), Donovan will be in the range of being the second-highest paid player in MLS – he’s behind Clint Dempsey by about half a million base salary, and right around Robbie Keane and Thierry Henry.

They’re biased, but Galaxy brass think he’s pretty good too.

“Landon has been a major factor in the growth and sustainability of Major League Soccer and we’re thrilled that he will continue to wear a Galaxy shirt for years to come. Keeping Landon was a major focus for our club and reinforces our desire to acquire and retain the best players from the United States and abroad.” -Galaxy President Chris Klein

“He is the best player in the history of the game in our country.” -Galaxy coach Bruce Arena

Despite rumors and “multiple offers” from overseas, Donovan was always going to stay.  Why should he leave?  It never would have been right.  Instead, he and the league got it absolutely right.  Will he reach the final year of his contract at a high level of play? Who knows, but it doesn’t matter.

Landon Donovan has given Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer some of the best play this country has ever seen.  And now, he may very well be here for the rest of his career.  Just like it should be.

LA Galaxy offloads Jelle van Damme to native Belgium

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This season continues to punch LA Galaxy fans right in the gut.

With the club near the basement of the Western Conference standings, the LA Galaxy have officially announced the sale of defensive rock Jelle van Damme to Royal Antwerp of the Belgian top flight. The club confirmed a transfer fee of $235,000.

While van Damme is 33 years old, the sale of fan-favorite van Damme is still a blow both on and off the pitch. With the Galaxy in a period of transition, van Damme was a likeable personality who was known for leaving it all out on the field on gamedays.

The official news release of the transfer made it clear the club did not initiate the transfer with the intention to sell, but instead the player himself requested a return home as his career comes nearer to a close. Van Damme is from Lokeren, Belgium, a town between Antwerp and Ghent.

“Jelle came to us and requested to return home to Belgium to be closer to his children,” LA Galaxy General Manager Pete Vagenas told LAGalaxy.com. “We worked closely with Jelle and Royal Antwerp so that we could make this move possible for Jelle and his family. Our top priority remains the success of the LA Galaxy. We thank him for his time with our club and wish him the best going forward.”

Van Damme joined the Galaxy in early 2016 on a free transfer from Belgian giants Standard Liege. He made 55 total appearances across all competitions, including 46 in league play and another three in the playoffs.

The team has taken a total nosedive in the last two months. Without a league win since June 21st against Colorado, the Galaxy have collected just a single point in league play, and they currently sit just a point off the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Liverpool holds all the cards in Coutinho saga

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In a time of heightening player control in a rapidly expanding transfer market, one club sticks out as grasping a clear understanding of the shifting business landscape and how to retain its grip on its most valuable assets.

Following the sudden departure of superstar playmaker Neymar, Barcelona is trying desperately to pry Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool. On Friday, numerous reports in England claimed that Barcelona had gone in with a third bid, one even more ridiculous than the previous two. But they’re fighting a losing battle.

For a number of reasons, the Reds hold complete control over Philippe Coutinho’s transfer saga, a saga that will likely end with no transfer having been completed.

First and foremost, Coutinho just recently signed a contract extension in January that runs through 2022. As far as we know, there is no release clause in the deal, meaning at the most basic of levels, Liverpool maintains contractual control. However, as we’ve seen the past few years, that alone hasn’t stopped a number of players forcing their way out.

Yet this time, Liverpool finds itself in an advantageous position outside of just the contract. With the 2018 World Cup right around the corner, the Reds know that should they force Coutinho to stay, he is obligated to play at his best, knowing that any less would see him miss out on a spot in the packed Brazil roster, or at the least a starting position. Thus, Liverpool can be sure that even if their denial of his departure renders him despondent, he will likely remain the quality player he has proven to be.

The money Barcelona is offering – a whopping $151 million according to the most recent reports – is indeed a ludicrous amount for a player who, while quality, does not have nearly the marketability of his countrymate now residing in Paris. On talent alone, Coutinho likely isn’t worth that total, meaning Liverpool should sell. And yet, even with that cash in hand, in this hyper-inflated market where more is less, could it really do justice in replacing his impact in the club? This late in the transfer window, there’s no chance they could replace the 25-year-old, meaning they’d likely be torpedoing their entire season – Champions League included – to feel the warmth of $151 million burning a hole in their pocket until January, or even next summer.

Liverpool has built its entire roster around Coutinho. The arrival of Salah, the use of Firmino, the wide deployment of Mane, the makeup of the midfield. He’s good enough and young enough to be considered a “franchise player.” In two games without Coutinho this season, they’ve scored five goals, but that is a poor metric to describe the 180 wild minutes. The money alone isn’t worth the cost of his departure.

It’s quite possible that Barcelona’s stubbornness, brought on by the sudden loss of a beloved player and the meteoric rise of their rivals to all-time greatness, could see the Catalans come back with an even more preposterous bid. It’s true every player has a value, and at some point, should Barcelona’s blind rage see them flail wildly into the transfer window, the Reds should sell, and will. But with Fenway Sports Group not in dire need of cash and in an advantageous position, in all likelihood they won’t. Barcelona can throw all the Neymar money at Liverpool their heart desires, but nothing will force the Reds to budge.

Top 25 moments in Premier League history: 19-21

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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Premier League we thought it would be great to count down our top 25 moments from a quarter of a century of action.

[ VIDEO: Top 25 moments in PL history ]

Each week we will release our best moments and you can keep track of the full list here.

Below are numbers 19-21 to as we continue our list.

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Premier League Preview: Stoke City vs. Arsenal

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  • Shkodran Mustafi, Francis Coquelin, Per Mertesacker all in line for season debuts.
  • The game will likely come too soon for Alexis Sanchez, who is still working to get to match fitness.
  • Stoke City have lost only one of their last seven home matches against Arsenal (W3 D3 L1).
  • Stoke City forward Jese Rodriguez could make his debut following his season-long loan move from Paris Saint-Germain.
  • Alexandre Lacazette could become the first Arsenal player to score in both of his opening two PL appearances for the club.

Coming off an exciting 4-3 comeback victory at home against Leicester City, Arsenal travel to what’s been in the past a house of horrors, visiting the bet365 Stadium to face Stoke City. (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET Friday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Three months ago, Arsenal ended some of the bad voodoo on them in Stoke with a 4-1 win on the road. This time around, the Gunners have even more firepower, with Alexandre Lacazette off to a strong start in the Premier League.

Stoke City, like Arsenal, are still getting comfortable in the in-vogue 3-4-3 formation, as well as getting used to life without Marko Arnautovic. Spanish forward Jese, a Real Madrid academy graduate, could make his season debut for Stoke on Saturday and summer signings Kurt Zouma, Bruno Martins Indi and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting will push American Geoff Cameron for a place in the team each week.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on last year’s win at Stoke: “We were well-organized, efficient and under pressure to win the game. We were on a strong run as well. We had a convincing win there and that should inspire us. Traditionally it’s always been a difficult place to go for everybody, but of course we continue in a strong way our start to the season.

“I don’t believe in bogey teams too much. What is important is the performance on the day. We had a good performance last season and we have to focus on that, just to deal with the same performance. Stoke have a good record at home against many teams and I’m convinced that if we play our game, we have a good chance of winning.”

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes on this season’s new signings: “We are hoping to involve all the guys we have signed this summer, some will be on the bench, others won’t. We are very excited by the group that we are assembling to be honest.”

“We always aim to be stronger at the end of the window than we were at the beginning, and I would argue that of all the players that have left only one would have been considered as a regular starter. We have replaced those guys with players who I see as potential regular starters.”

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Prediction

Arsenal are clearly still a work in progress, but offensively they’re improved from a year ago. Stoke City on the other hand fell by a slim margin to Everton last week but have greatly improved defensively. We think it will be another defensive struggle, ending in a draw. Stoke City 1-1 Arsenal