BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa – Landon Donovan’s pain over the United States’ World Cup exit could be eased by a lucrative transfer to the world’s richest soccer club.
Yahoo! Sports has learned that English Premier League team Manchester City has identified Donovan as one of its top targets in the gigantic summer spending spree by owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
Man City sent a scout to watch Donovan “in all four games” that the American played during the World Cup, according to a source who is familiar with the team’s player acquisition dealings. Another source close to the club confirmed to Yahoo! Sports that there is “significant interest” in Donovan.
[Photos: More images of U.S. star Landon Donovan]
Donovan will earn $2,127,777.78 with his current employer, the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer, in 2010. However, the English club would be able to offer a far greater salary, one in the region of $4 million a year. Another factor that could entice City would be the prospect of additional reach and exposure in the North American market, with Donovan’s profile and popularity at an all-time high.
While Donovan’s form during the World Cup was not always at its best, he proved himself as a clutch performer under pressure. His game-winning goal against Algeria, which saved the USA from elimination in the group stage, came with just two minutes of injury-time remaining.
Even in the disappointing round-of-16 defeat to Ghana on Saturday night, Donovan held his nerve with a coolly taken penalty kick to level the score at 1-1 in the 62nd minute.
[Yahoo! exclusive: Donovan, ex reconnect after dramatic win]
Man City has historically operated in the shadow of its cross-town rival Manchester United, one of the most successful teams in English and European club soccer history. But since being purchased by Sheikh Mansour and his consortium of uber-rich oil magnates in 2008, the team’s fortunes have been transformed.
More than $250 million has been invested in the squad, including high-profile signings such as Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor (formerly of EPL side Arsenal), Argentina forward Carlos Tevez (Man United) and Brazil forward Robinho (Real Madrid). Man City’s next goal is a top-four finish in the Premier League and a place in the UEFA Champions League.
Donovan would represent solid value for the ambitious club. He would likely cost around $12 million in transfer fees, which would be paid by Man City and split between the Galaxy and Major League Soccer.
Everton of the EPL has been keen on acquiring Donovan full-time after he spent a highly successful loan spell there at the start of this year. If there is a bidding war, however, there will only be one winner – City.
According to numerous reports in the British press, City is poised to sign Spanish midfielder David Silva, who can operate as either an attacking central midfielder or a winger. Donovan would most likely be used on the right wing, the position he occupies for the U.S.