Why did Club León sign Landon Donovan out of retirement?

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images for FOX Sports)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images for FOX Sports) /

Landon Donovan is taking his talents to Liga MX after coming out of retirement for a second time. Will he actually provide any value to Club León?

Proclaiming that he “doesn’t believe in walls,” Landon Donovan emerged from his second retirement to sign south of the border with Club León in Liga MX. The 35-year-old American retired after the 2016 MLS season, and he has been away from the pitch for more than a year.

What prompted both sides to arrange for Donovan’s return to competition? Why would León take a risk on a player in his mid-30s who has been sidelined for so long?

Ultimately, this is probably more of a marketing deal than anything else. Donovan is unlikely to see action ahead of incumbent talent Mauro Boselli, Elias Hernandez, Luis Montes, and Andres Andrade. On the bench, he will vie with Giles Barnes to earn a role as a supersub.

There was little from a competitive standpoint to indicate that León needed a player of Donovan’s skill set to remain competitive with UNAM Pumas atop the Liga MX table. This is not a signing that will tip the balance of power in Mexican soccer.

Similarly, Donovan has nothing really left to prove on the pitch.

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Given his lack of match fitness, Donovan is unlikely to play much more than an ancillary role in any successes his new club enjoys in 2018. For Donovan, this is about expanding his brand into new markets and cashing in on one last bout of earning potential.

The American star already has accomplished a career’s worth of highlights. His MLS titles, his time in the English Premier League, and his efforts at the World Cup have made Donovan one of the greatest Americans ever to play the sport. And it is that reputation, more than present form, that inspired this signing.

León is opening up its coffers to bring Donovan into the fold. The reported $180,000 per month Donovan will receive from León is a major part of the draw to come out of retirement. But he will earn that money more as a face of the organization than as an on-field catalyst for sporting success.

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Donovan is in León primarily to sell merchandise and increase the club’s exposure in the U.S. marketplace. Maybe the American will even score a critical goal or two along the way to help support Leon’s push for a Liga MX title. Even if he fails to make much of an impact on the pitch, though, Donovan’s signing will still prove to be a success for both parties.