How does a young footballer go from being one of the top talents at one of the biggest clubs in the world to a regular in the Football Championship and then to sitting on the bench at Tottenham and watching on as his career threatens to stagnate? You’d have to ask Giovani Dos Santos whose young career reads like a strange story – the boy’s scored hat-tricks for the mighty Barcelona and was meant to be a superb signing for Spurs but has yet to reach his potential. You’ve got to believe that the talent Barcelona saw in him is still in the Mexican and he is still young and capable of harnessing his talents should he work hard. I’m sure we’re yet to see the best of Giovani Dos Santos though whether his future career will be in England or not is yet to be seen.
Gio is one of three brothers who were to make it into football, the others being called Eder and Jonathan; the trio are sons of a former Brazilian footballer so the sport runs in their blood. He was born in Monterrey, Mexico on the 11th of May 1989 and, by the age of 12, had joined the youth ranks at local side Monterrey who happened to be a Mexican top flight club. Gio, who operates as an attacking midfielder or on the left wing, was destined never to make a first team appearance for his local club though as his talent impressed scouts coming from European heavyweights Barcelona who brought him to the club in 2002 aged just 13.
Dos Santos worked his way through the Barcelona youth teams and by 2006 had made it up to Barcelona’s “B” team – he also was invited to join up with the first team squad for their summer friendlies that same year which was high praise for such a youngster. He appeared in a few of the friendlies, scoring on the way and generally impressing. He returned to Barca “B” but only for another season before once again being promoted to the first team. This time, having gained Spanish as a second nationality which would prevent Barca from being unable to field other non-EU players due to the youngster, he remained in the Barca first team and managed to make 28 first team appearances – though many came from the bench, despite being just 18. Comparisons were made with fellow youth team graduate Lionel Messi with the suggestion being that Dos Santos was the most talented player to come through the ranks since Messi which says a lot given how many talents Barcelona have brought through with their youth setup. Gio even managed to score a hat-trick against Murcia in Barcelona’s last league game of the season, showing his tremendous potential. Dos Santos shocked everyone though by demanding to play as a first team regular at the club, claiming that he would leave if Barcelona did not meet those demands. Naturally the Spanish giants were unwilling to give a regular first team role to a relatively unproven youngster and they made the Mexican available for transfer.
It was quite a surprise to see one of Barca’s top talents join Tottenham in June 2008 for a relatively low fee but thus were the problems the Mexican’s attitude had caused him. Still, his signing was seen as a coup for Tottenham and Dos Santos was expected to make a big impact for Juande Ramos’s side. Gio impressed in Spurs’ pre-season but his competitive appearances failed to impress and he looked to be all showboating, no actual ability to deliver – much like a young Cristiano Ronaldo. A bad injury then further dented Dos Santos’s progress and on his return he found himself being loaned out to Championship club Ipswich to gain full fitness. Arguably too good for the Championship, Dos Santos impressed at the club and grew an affinity there but his return to Spurs has failed to bear fruition, as he’s clearly not in Harry Redknapp’s current plans and the young Mexican has made just two cup appearances so far this season.
Despite his flagging club career Dos Santos’s rise through the youth phases of international football continued and he eventually made his way into the Mexican first team squad in 2007 where he has remained to this day. He has since established himself as an important member of the Mexico squad and was awarded the MVP award at July’s CONCACEF Gold Cup.
Questions as to Dos Santos’s attitude must be asked as this was the reason for his departure from Barcelona but he has failed to make an impact at Spurs and Harry Redknapp does not seem to rate him highly. The earlier performances for Barca and his international performances show that there’s still a lot of talent inside the diminutive player and surely with confidence and the right sort of training he could make something of himself. Let’s face it, a teenager who makes Barcelona’s first team squad could not be a bad player. Dos Santos career has taken a premature fall and a move could be needed to spark a return to the ability he showed back in Barca’s youth teams. The Mexican needs to aid his own improvement though and learn from his mistakes, turning his raw talent from showboating and skills into actually providing goals and assists and not wasting possession. If he can improve his game, much like Cristiano Ronaldo did, then he could easily become one of the finest footballers out there.