Posted: Wed August 28, 2013 9:15PM; Updated: Wed August 28, 2013 9:39PM
Brian Straus
Brian Straus>INSIDE SOCCER

Landon Donovan opens up about his decision to remain in L.A.

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Landon Donovan has responded to criticism of his sabbatical with strong play for both club and country.
Landon Donovan has responded to criticism of his sabbatical with strong play for club and country.
Nick Ut/AP

After his new, multi-year contract with the L.A. Galaxy was announced Wednesday afternoon, Landon Donovan joked at a StubHub Center news conference that it was worth $500 million per season for 20 years. The actual figure is still pretty good. A source with knowledge of the deal indicated that Donovan would make an annual salary in the vicinity of $4.5 million, with potential incentives and bonuses that could push his compensation over $5 million per season. The contract's duration remains unknown.

Clint Dempsey's 3.5-year pact with the Seattle Sounders is worth $5.04 million annually, according to the MLS Players Union, although sources have told SI.com's Grant Wahl that the dollar amount is higher.

Even if Dempsey is making more, the Galaxy's significant commitment to Donovan was enough to make him "feel wanted," which made the decision to remain with his hometown club an easy one, he told reporters. Shortly thereafter, he discussed his decision to remain in MLS, his motivation and his legacy in a brief and exclusive Q&A with SI.com.

SI.com: Do you detect a shift in the way you've been received and perceived over the past couple of months? The response to your performance at the Gold Cup and to your new contract with the Galaxy suggests that there's a bit more appreciation, or at least understanding, for your decision to take some time off and then to re-sign with L.A.

Donovan: Fortunately I don't spend too much time reading or worrying about what people have to say, but the goal for me throughout this whole process -- throughout my whole life -- is to try to be happy. It doesn't always manifest itself in ways or in the decisions that other people think I should make in order to be happy.

At the end of last year, something inside me was saying I needed a break. I don't know exactly why or what the reasoning was, but it was very strong. I did what was right for me. It's a good lesson for myself, that you need to do what makes you happy. I think it's probably a good lesson for other people to follow -- to not always make the decision that's popular for others, but to do what you feel like is the right thing to do. I guess in particular for now, it sort of solidifies it for me a little more. But regardless of whether [the new contract] had come or not, it was still the right thing for me to do.

SI.com: Chris Klein [the Galaxy president] said he thought that returning to L.A. could set you up to be a Gretzky or Jordan-type figure who changed the way a sport is perceived in this country. You said you had more to accomplish with the Galaxy. What is there left to do? Do you think about the legacy you'll leave?

Donovan: I appreciate those words from Chris. That's very nice. Perhaps I'm atypical, but I don't really think about things like that. I genuinely want to do my best every day and I genuinely want to enjoy life every day. I want to win the game Saturday against San Jose and everything else is sort of on the periphery until the game is over.

After that, I'd love to be called into the national team and see if I can contribute to us qualifying for another World Cup. And then down the road, I want to win an MLS Cup this year. I want to win as many as I can get and I want to be part of the World Cup. I don't think in terms of legacy or that kind of stuff. I've always thought that'll take care of itself if I did everything right on a day-to-day basis.

SI.com: Did Dempsey's deal with the Sounders set a new benchmark for the American player in MLS? Is it an isolated case or are we seeing a change in the way the league values American players?

Donovan: I think it's a fantastic thing. It shows that the league is committed to committing significant resources to American players. They showed that in Clint's deal. They showed that in Omar [Gonzalez's] deal and they're showing that in my deal. And they want it very clear that they want their best players playing here in this league.

SI.com: Your play over the past couple of months suggests that you really did get what you needed from your sabbatical. Have you thought about whether those same resources, those same comforts, that have reinvigorated you here would have been available if you had moved abroad? Did you need to stay in L.A. in order to remain at your best?

Donovan: I would argue that some of my best games were when I was in Liverpool with Everton.

SI.com: Absolutely, but that was always short-term.

Donovan: True. Look, my motivation comes from inside, and while I'm happy as a human being here in L.A., if I'd gone somewhere else in the coming months I still would have performed at that same level. But as far as the off-the-field stuff, it just makes life better, more enjoyable, easier, when I'm here near my family and I can do it in a place where I can call home.

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