Quote sheet: Donovan conference call
Major League Soccer Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidis
"It's difficult to put into words how we all feel today. Four years ago I went and met with Bayer Leverkusen with Richard Motzkin to try to sign a homesick 18-year-old kid who was having difficulty adapting to Germany and getting playing time with the Leverkusen first team. At that time, with Bayer Leverkusen's cooperation we were able to achieve that signing and over the past four years we have seen Landon develop a great deal as a player and very importantly, from my perspective, as a person. He has embraced his role as a face of MLS and of soccer in the United States and also as a role model for young children across the country. He embodies one of the great qualities that we have in MLS in our players. Our players are humble, they are approachable, they are terrific role models, they have an enormous commitment to building this game, and an understanding of the sacrifices that are necessary to do that."
"At the same time, they are highly driven, professional, world-class athletes. Over the past four years, Landon has made a huge difference to where this league is and we find so much positive momentum in so many areas of our business and in the development of the game in the United States - Landon is a big part of that. And so today he reaches another important juncture in his career. At the end of the season Landon came to us and said he owed it go over to Leverkusen, given all that they had done for him and for Major League Soccer over the years and give them a chance. That is indicative of the kind of person that Landon is and I have enormous respect for that and everybody at the league does. At the end of the process Landon has come to us and said that given everything that Leverkusen has done for him that he owes them the chance of convincing him that Germany and Leverkusen is a place that he can succeed and continue his career as a soccer player."
"So today, we make the announcement that Landon will be rejoining Bayer Leverkusen beginning on January 1, 2005. They exercised an option to re-acquire him earlier this year so it doesn't come out of the blue for us. The Earthquakes will be receiving a replacement allocation as Landon returns to the club that signed him in 1999 originally. I continue to believe that Landon has a future in Major League Soccer. He's clearly always going to be a part of the game here in the United States and he'll always be a part of the Major League Soccer family and I believe that eventually Landon will return to MLS, whether that is 6 months from now, or 18 months from now or 5 years from now - I can't say - but I do believe that that will happen - our futures are intertwined. I would like to say thank you to Landon - thank you for everything that you have given to us and to the game in this country over the last 4 years. This is not the end, it is a new beginning and we wish you all the best at Leverkusen. I am quite convinced that you are going to excel over there as you have over here and raise your game to even new heights and become an even more prominent player on the world scene."
"It's funny how you make decisions in life and you always think the decision you are making is the hardest you've ever made and I thought that four years ago when I first came here. It was difficult, and it was probably harder on my agent Richard Motzkin to get me out of there, but it was a decision I felt I should make. Clearly this decision has been 100 times harder, for many reasons. I've said recently that being in San Jose has changed me from being a boy and turned me into a man. You become emotionally attached to a place, to a team, to a fan base, to an organization and it's difficult to leave."
"That being said, Leverkusen were the first team I was at originally and they have accommodated every wish I have ever asked for in every possible way. Near the end of the season, via email and phone calls they indicated that they would definitely like to have me back and I went from never considering it to 'OK, I'll be open about it and I'll see.' Given the fact that they have always been loyal to me, always been fair to me, given me the chance to do what I love to do, I feel that it is fair to at least go back and try it out, owe up to my obligation to the contract that I signed and see how it goes. One major factor that played a role in this was that they have assured me that it's not prison I am going back to. Germany wasn't always the friendliest place for me when I was younger and they have assured me that if I don't like it, if I hate it and I don't want to be there and it doesn't work out that they will do whatever they need to do in their power to make me happy, like they always have, and that was a big part of my decision. I respect that and I honor that and I appreciate that and that has been a part of my deciding to return."
"Some thank you's real quickly: Frank Yallop and Dominic Kinnear have been the best coaches I could have asked for. I received my opportunity almost immediately and they gave me a chance to play and they always believed in me. More importantly they have just been good people to me, and they've been like family and I know it hasn't been the best year Dom, but we have had a lot of good times and that's going to be hard for me to leave."
"Clearly the Earthquakes, all the front office that we've been through - we've been through a few front office people, general managers, presidents - but they have all been very good to me and clearly the fans - we don't have the biggest fan base, but the fans that do come out are just as loyal as you can be. They are knowledgeable about the game, they respect us and they genuinely love the team. Thank you to all of them, I really appreciate that. I want to thank Leverkusen as well."
"Michael Reschke, who is their general manager now, he was actually the first guy that scouted me in Leverkusen, ironically, and now he has worked his way up to the general manager position. He has just been absolutely outstanding throughout this whole process and he has been about as fair as you can be. I am very grateful and thankful for that."
"I met the coach a couple weeks ago, Klaus Augenthaler, and he was very good, very nice and made it clear that I will be given the chance to play if I perform. One other person is the assistant coach who was my reserve team coach when I was there, who was really the only person I have kept contact with is Peter Hermann, and he has been great. He has been kind of like a father to me so I am excited to go back and spend some time with him."
"I am excited about the fact that I will be in a new environment, playing in a new environment and I think it will be good for myself; I think it will be good for the national team; I think it will be good for me to have a new experience. I think it's something that will be positive for me."
"I would also like to thank my agent, Richard Motzkin, and Carie and Eric, thank you guys, especially Rich. I know I am a pain sometimes and I know it's not easy working with me but this doesn't come together without you and I am very confident that there is no agent in the world that could have made all of this happen over the last four years so Thank you. Of course my family as well. All in all, thank you to everyone and know that this isn't me having to go back to Germany, it's me wanting to go back to Germany and being excited about going back and I am just excited for what the future holds."
"Thank you. Ivan, I really can't thank you enough for your understanding through all of this. It is good to know that people are innately good and believe in what I believe in and have faith in what I believe in and I respect you for understanding and appreciating my wishes and I thank you for giving me the opportunity you have given me in Major League Soccer and I thank you."
San Jose Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear
"Thank you Landon and Ivan, I guess on this eve of thanksgiving I will be thankful for nothing on this day ...just kidding. I was at a press conference four years ago when Landon first came to San Jose. Just the amount of growth that he has shown over the last four years not only as a player but as a person has been most impressive. I have been fortunate to work with Landon all four years, as an assistant and as a head coach, and I have seen every day the ability and the quality of this young man not only as a person but as a great soccer player."
"It is a sad day for me as the head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes but as far as being a true fan of the game I look forward to seeing Landon playing for Leverkusen, and as Ivan said, I think he will excel when he gets over there. So I look to his challenges as a friend and as a fan of soccer. He will be missed in San Jose. I think we definitely have been spoiled over the past four years with the talent that he has brought to Spartan Stadium and also the humbleness and graciousness that he gives as a person off the field every day which I think sometimes gets overlooked. I know that the people that know him and are working with him everyday appreciate the things he does on the field and off the field and all I can say is to Landon I have a great amount of respect for him, a great amount of admiration because I know I love watching good soccer and when it comes to soccer players in the United States, he is at the top of the list, almost without argument or without question. I want to say thank you to him, thank you to MLS for bringing Landon to San Jose. We have definitely enjoyed having him here and like I said, he will be missed, not only as a player but as a person and I think San Jose is missing a jewel in the sports world today, so thank you."
Donovan, on leaving friends and family to play in Germany:
"There were two parts that played a big factor in this. One was my girlfriend and my family and the other was leaving San Jose. At the end of the day, I'm fortunate that I have people that understand and care about what I want to do and it's not always easy. I can tell you that I haven't technically lived with my girlfriend for two-and-a-half years now but she's always there to make it happen and it's not often you will find people in your life that will do that. They've been extremely understanding. They know that if I want to do it that it is something that they will support."
Donovan, on reaction from his teammates:
"Most of them were aware. I think soccer players, especially American soccer players, are a unique group. As much as you make friends and you want people to stay around, they understand that the opportunity only comes so often. I hope that every one of them is genuinely happy for me and excited for me and I hope that they know that I will be the same way if and when the opportunity arises for them."
Donovan, on his thoughts when he learned he was coming to San Jose in 2001:
"To be honest I didn't know hardly a thing about San Jose or northern California except that I had been on a class field trip in eighth grade to San Francisco. I really didn't know what to expect. I knew that I was back in the States and I knew that I was back near home. I probably would have wanted to go to L.A. but for many, many reasons I am very glad I went to San Jose. It was good have your family close but not close enough where they can drop in on you. There's just a feeling you get, not only in sports, when you are around certain people or are in certain environments that make you feel comfortable and make you feel like you belong, and that is how I felt in San Jose."
Donovan, on what he will miss about San Jose:
"In my estimation before The Home Depot Center was built I felt like San Jose had, from an atmosphere standpoint, the best stadium in the league and that is a credit to the fans. There is just something about a cold night in San Jose in the autumn and the crowd is out and you play in front of them and the atmosphere is incredible and it is comparable to many places in Europe. That's something I'm going to remember. I am going to miss my teammates. There are a few guys who over the last four years I have gotten pretty close to and it's going to be hard. That's why they say you have no friends in soccer, just acquaintances. That's something I will have to deal with."
Kinnear, on replacing Landon:
"Well it's definitely difficult because I think we all know how good of a player he is and what he has shown on the club level and the international level. You owe it not only to the league and to the fans of San Jose and to the team and to everyone in the Earthquakes organization to try and replace a player of Landon's quality which is difficult. We do know that Clint Mathis' name has been rumored about coming back to MLS and for sure the Earthquakes would be looking to bring Clint to San Jose. If that doesn't happen then we need to hop on planes to track down somebody that we feel is not only a good player but also a good person that will fit in with the American landscape of soccer."
Donovan, closing comments:
"I just want people to know that I am very excited about this, but it is very bittersweet. Major League Soccer has been absolutely incredible to me in every little thing, things you don't always see, taking care of flights, hotels, and taking care of family members and I am very, very grateful and want to assure everyone that MLS is absolutely in my future at some point. I wish I could tell you when, I don't know. As I said I am going to Leverkusen very open minded and somewhat cautions and am just going to see how it goes. Assuming I don't have any drastic injury or other unforeseen injury I can promise you that I will be back in Major League Soccer someday."