Landon Donovan spoke to the media this afternoon, fielding questions about his retirement which was announced earlier today. At the age of 32, Donovan has spent half his life as a professional soccer player signing with Bayer Leverkusen in 1999 at the age of 16.
He didn't last long in Germany, choosing to return to Major League Soccer at a time when the league was contracting teams but the United States went deeper than it ever had before in a World Cup. Donovan has been a professional soccer player his entire adult life, so I asked him at this afternoon's press conference what he thought life after soccer would be life.
"It's going to be a lot more time with my beautiful girlfriend," said Landon Donovan. "It's going to be a lot of time with my family and my friends. [It will be] a lot of travel. It makes me excited when I think about it."
Travel has been a part of his life for his entire career, but travel is different when it's for business. The reality of having every habitable continent stamped on your passport, but never having gotten to just enjoy the experience must get old. His thoughts about what he would do with the free time were directly tied to what's been expected of him for so long.
"I've been talking to people throughout this process that people think you show up on Saturday and just play the game, then sit around all week and do nothing," said Donovan. "For sixteen years almost every decision that I've made of every hour of every day has revolved around, 'How's this going to prepare me for tomorrow's training or tomorrow's game?'. That weighs on you after awhile so just having the freedom to do what you want is very exciting for me and I'm looking forward to that."
For the next few months, Donovan gets to play soccer knowing theres an end in sight. He'll get to enjoy and relish the moments, and we've already seen how that knowledge has changed his approach on the pitch. There was joy on his face as he scored against Bayern Munich. As Donovan told reporters during the press conference, "I just thought, 'If they only knew'".
Of course we didn't know, and that's probably the way Donovan wanted it. Bruce Arena didn't recall him when he called back Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane so he could have his quiet happy moment. In a career that's always been on his terms, now he gets to walk away on his terms to. Those of us born without his gifts may not be able to imagine why someone would walk at 32.
Just another piece of the mysterious puzzle that is Donovan.