This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Now that the chase is done, dusted and behind him, how would Craig Waibel categorize the dramatic pursuit of Landon Donovan this offseason?
"Exhausting," said Real Salt Lake's general manager with an accompanying laugh.
It's been two weeks since the contract discussions that took Major League Soccer by storm came to a halt. Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl reported on Jan. 25 that Donovan would not be signing with RSL despite what was described as "a lucrative offer" under the league's limited free agency rules. Waibel did not delve into specifics as to why the deal fell short, but did speak openly about pursuing Donovan and not being able to finalize a deal.
"Genuine interest on both sides," Waibel said. "It was really professional the whole way through. In the end, it just didn't get done, and unfortunately every time I get to tell [the media] or the fans we signed a new player, there's probably 50 to 99 others that we didn't get done. You never know what the reason is."
Former teammates with the San Jose Earthquakes over a decade ago, Waibel and Donovan go back to the days of when Donovan, soon-to-be 35, burst onto the scene both in MLS and the U.S. men's national team. And Waibel admits that this hunt was different than others he's had in his three years at the front office helm.
"It was far more high-profile for me that I couldn't hide," he quipped. "Certainly, there were a lot more people that knew about it than I would've liked, but have to say Landon was awesome. We've known each other a long time.
"He's very professional, and in the end, it just didn't work. There's no hard feelings on either side of the table. It came down to a really polite conversation. Unfortunately for me and the organization, we couldn't get it over the end line, but at the same time, we built a great ally in Landon, and I know he was impressed with the way we handled it."
Had the deal worked out, Donovan would've filled the last Designated Player slot on RSL's roster after the club signed attacking midfielder Albert Rusnák from Dutch club FC Groningen last month. The league's all-time leader in goals scored and assists dished out won't be RSL red as so many fans hoped for.
But does Waibel think Donovan will be suited up somewhere in 2017?
"I hope not," he said, "because if he is, then he's playing against us."