Landon Donovan, Major League Soccer's all-time leading scorer and the namesake of the league's MVP trophy, is making another return from retirement with Club Leon in Mexico.
MLSsoccer.com confirmed the news on Saturday with Donovan's representative, who has also landed deals for other former MLS players in Liga MX, including Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Kekuta Manneh (Pachuca) and most recently Giles Barnes, who will be a teammate of Donovan's at Leon.
"Landon is a competitor, he truly is excited about the opportunity with Leon, and he plans to go there to compete and help the club win championships,” Donovan’s agent, Richard Motzkin, told MLSsoccer.com.
Overnight, Leon's official team Twitter account posted a photo of Donovan wearing the club's green home jersey, welcoming him to the team. Club owner Jesus Martinez later confirmed in an interview with Fox Deportes Mexico that the club had in fact signed the 35-year-old, according to ESPN FC.
The club's post followed a Twitter exchange in which Donovan, who had reportedly been visiting the city of Leon for the past few days, expressed his fondness for the city, the club and the fans, and a desire to wear green and win trophies for Leon.
Donovan's tweet also suggested his latest comeback could be partially motivated by sporting diplomacy, with the phrase "No creo en los muros", translated as "I don't believe in walls":
Presidente: me encantó la Ciudad. Es la mejor afición. @clubleonfc es un equipo histórico y ganador. No creo en los muros, quiero ir a México, vestirme de verde y ganar trofeos con León. Nos vemos muy pronto! https://t.co/Xqm4jX2hW7— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) January 13, 2018
The idea of "Captain America" joining the Mexican club had surfaced a few days earlier as part of Leon's efforts to sell their new third kit. Now it seems legitimate, with former US national team teammate and current Pachuca defender Omar Gonzalez tweeting that he looked forward to seeing Donovan when their sides meet in a 2018 Liga MX Clausura fixture on Feb. 24.
Bienvenido a @LIGABancomerMX @landondonovan ! Estoy emocionado enfrentarte en el clásico @Tuzos vs. @clubleonfc . Mucho éxito amigo, pero arriba los Tuzos!!! Abrazo fuerte y te veo muy pronto https://t.co/hZ8Bsgmzyl— Omar Gonzalez (@Omar4Gonzalez) January 13, 2018
Donovan is MLS's all-time leader with 145 goals and 136 assists. He has not played in a competitive match since the end of the 2016 MLS campaign, when he re-joined the LA Galaxy for their playoff push, appearing in six regular season games and three playoff matches. But a move to Leon is true to form for Donovan, who spent much of his latter career making unexpected moves.
The brave don’t live forever but the cautious do not live at all. I’m excited for this new adventure 😎⚽️🦁💚— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) January 13, 2018
In 2010 and 2012, Donovan went on short-term loan spells to English Premier League side Everton, making 17 appearances in all for the Liverpool-based club across two separate MLS offseasons. Then after helping the Galaxy win the 2012 MLS Cup Donovan took a much-publicized leave of absence from soccer.
He returned in late March of the following season and eventually worked his way back into the US national team picture. But many believed that sabbatical contributed to then-US manager Jurgen Klinsmann leaving Donovan off the roster for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Donovan made his first official retirement after the 2014 MLS season before returning to LA in September of 2016. He resumed retirement following the Galaxy's defeat to Colorado in the 2016 Western Conference Semifinals.
At Leon, Donovan will follow a tradition of American players that also includes Marcelo Balboa, Eric Wynalda and current goalkeeper William Yarbrough.