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Landon Donovan: First US breakout soccer star

So this is what an American soccer hero looks like.

The predictions of the 'next big thing' can now be put to bed. The US has it's breakout soccer star: Landon Donovan.

After leading the US to the World Cup round of 16, Donovan's first week back on home soil has been a whirlwind of endorsements and appearances.

From 'The Late Show with David Letterman' to 'Regis & Kelly', chatting on the CBS Early Show and ringing the bell at the Stock Exchange - Donovan did it all less than 48 hours after touching down in New York. Like his LA Galaxy teammate David Beckham, Donovan has now entered the mainstream consciousness of the US public. He matters. His relationships matter.

Amazing as it may have seemed a year ago, people now want to know more about this American soccer player. People magazine have featured a reconciliation with his wife, "Rules of Engagement" actress Bianca Kajlich and the gossip mags have been carrying stories of a UK woman claiming to be pregnant with his child.

With an increased profile will come uncomfortable stories. It goes with the territory. But Donovan can reassure himself with an increased bank balance in the coming months.

The US captain already enjoys a healthy stable of endorsement deals with Gatorade, AT&T, Nike, and the Mexican Lottery and experts say his goal against Algeria could be personally worth as much as $10 million in new sponsorship.

Kitbag, the online football merchandise store, fired out a media release last week that Donovan's US shirt was their biggest seller last month. Not Lionel Messi, nor Cristiano Ronaldo - it is Donovan's No10 shirt which is the world's big seller.

David Moyes, the Everton manager, deserves great credit for his influence in Donovan's new status. Would all this sudden success have arrived if not for that three-month stint at Goodison Park? I doubt it.

Donovan, himself, has admitted his loan spell with Everton took his game and self-belief to a new level. And for the Premiership's global fanbase, here was an American player, well-established in his own domestic competition, who was proving himself in the best league in the world.

Moyes has always admired American players. From his signing of Brian McBride at Preston North End, to the rejuvenation of Tim Howard at Everton, the Scot - unknowingly for many - has played a big role in the development of the game in the 'States. While Donovan grabbed the headlines, Moyes handed two more Americans, Cody Arnoux and Anthony Peterlin, short-term deals also in January.

For now, Donovan is blanking questions about a return to Europe. Everton would welcome him back, while Manchester City have also been mentioned.

Unless a Champions League team comes in for him, Donovan should give Moyes first right of refusal. Deep down, he knows everything that is coming his way was influenced by Moyes' decision to chase hard for him last season. At another club Donovan would have to start again, but he would return to Goodison Park an established first-choice player - which would not only assist his football, but also keep up his profile and satisfy sponsors.

Donovan has insisted he would be satisfied playing out his days in MLS. But the experience with Everton and the reaction from the World Cup must fire his ambition beyond the 'States.

For American soccer to maintain this momentum, the game needs Donovan to keep breaking down walls.

Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie

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