Landon Donovan’s public flirtation with soccer mortality raised more than a few eyebrows this week in MLS circles and beyond, but it appears Jurgen Klinsmann didn’t bat an eye.
The US national team coach said Friday that he, too, endured similar thoughts to the ones expressed during US camp this week by Donovan, including the idea that accomplished players can struggle to find enjoyment or motivation at a certain point in their careers.
“It’s normal that your thoughts go all over the place when you think: ‘What’s next, where are my next challenges, how long will I play this game?’” Klinsmann said Friday on a teleconference with the media. “At this moment right now … those thoughts are just normal.”
Donovan told reporters assembled in Florida earlier this week that, among other things, he’s come to grips with the idea that at 30 years and likely facing his fourth World Cup appearance in 2014, he will inevitably begin to run on fumes.
“There's no question that at some point, probably sooner rather than later, I'll be pretty burned out,” Donovan said. “And when that time comes, then I'll take a step back and take a look at it and see if I want to keep going.”
Klinsmann did not say if he discussed the issue with Donovan since the LA Galaxy star’s arrival in camp earlier this week, but he did insist that there have been no issues with Donovan’s motivation or focus ahead of a matchup against Scotland on Saturday (8 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com).
“He’s been tremendous in every training session,” Klinsmann said. “I didn’t see any lack of not being hungry or not giving everything he had. He’s very, very professional. So far, there’s nothing to complain about with Landon. He’s a highly professional guy, and time will tell how much he wants to continue on the highest level.”
Donovan also told reporters that he’s well aware that a point may come when he simply doesn’t enjoy the game as much as he once did.
“There's a natural point where it's not as fun anymore, not as enjoyable, and you still try to find ways to keep it enjoyable,” he said. “I used to think maybe if I'm still fit I can play a long time. I think from a mental standpoint now I'm realizing if I'm not enjoying it I'm not going to play. I still enjoy it to a large extent, but I've always promised myself that if that ever goes away I'm not going to play just to play.”
Klinsmann admitted that he too questioned his career at times, despite his success with Inter Milan, Tottenham Hotspur, Bayern Munich and the German national team. He also alluded to a solution to his own career concerns that some have wondered could be potential solution for Donovan: change just might be a good thing.
“I had those moments, too,” Klinsmann said. “They came usually when you were kind of ready for a next step or a change. It helped me a lot to change my environment, it kept me on my toes and I kept learning off the field a lot of things as well.”
Donovan has only made two appearances for the national team during the Klinsmann era, in the US head coach’s first two games after taking the job last summer. He’s expected to be a regular starter during the upcoming five games for the US team and World Cup qualifiers to come, as long as he stays healthy.
“It always comes down to things on the field now,” Klinsmann said, “and he knows exactly that we expect everything from him.”