He's considered Public Enemy No. 1 by some Mexico fans, but Landon Donovan offered up plenty of warm praise for El Tri in an interview with MedioTiempo.com during the LA Galaxy's visit to Mexico City this week.
Conversing in Spanish, the longtime US national team star said he felt it was “just” that Mexico reached this summer's World Cup despite their nightmarish performance in the CONCACAF Hexagonal qualifying round, and predicted “something special” if El Tri produce their best form in Brazil.
“For me, it was a surprise,” Donovan said of his border rivals' rough 2013, “but it is still just that Mexico is in the World Cup – it is better for Mexico, of course; it is better for us, for all the world, because Mexico has a chance to do something special in the Cup. When they play well, Mexico is one of the best in the world.
"In qualifying they did not play so well, but now it's a different year and I believe they can do something special."
The Californian has been the architect of some of El Tri's most galling defeats over the years. Yet he underlined his love of the country by noting that he has spent ample time vacationing there – and was quick to hail the nation's world-class youth development structures.
“In my opinion, the youth in Mexico is better than ours,” he said. “We're looking for ways to improve it, but for me Mexico is one of the best in the world at that kind of progression, with youth, and with the national team it's almost the same forever, and I think it will continue to be for a long time.”
“When we are playing we are enemies sometimes,” he added, “but afterwards there are no problems.”
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While he said he plans to finish his playing days with the Galaxy, Donovan also acknowledged that he came very close to a move to Liga MX in years past. MedioTiempo.com cites other sources to claim that he nearly joined Mexico City powerhouse Club América, though he himself did not explicitly confirm as much.
“In past years, I have had some other opportunities that did not work out at that time,” said Donovan. “Now I think I'll stay in Los Angeles for the rest of my career. I want to be in Los Angeles – you never know what can happen, but I am very happy at home.”
Donovan also addressed his own nation's hopes for Brazil 2014, downplaying the impact of the bearish draw that placed the USA in what many are calling the tournament's “Group of Death” alongside Ghana, Portugal and Germany.
“In recent years, we are at our best in our history. Everything looks good for the World Cup – we expect four, five, six great games to see if we are better or not,” he said. “You never know in the draw because sometimes it looks very bad on paper, but is not so bad.
“For me, the draw does not matter much.”