Giovani dos Santos could be moving to his sixth club at the tender age of 22, but Nick Rosano argues that he still has time to fulfill the hype.
Not many players make Tim Howard look silly.
Sure, he gets beaten, all goalkeepers do. But when Gio dos Santos lured him out of the goal, only to leave him in no man’s land and curl a shot into the top corner of the net to secure a Gold Cup win for Mexico over the United States, that was the moment when dos Santos’ incredible skill was evident for all to see.
That goal, along with nine others, was nominated for FIFA’s 2011 Puskas award for the best goal of the year. Yet almost seven months later, despite the hype, despite the evident displays of skill, he finds himself an outcast at a team that is suddenly challenging for the Premier League title.
It is the level that many pundits thought his talent could bring him to. After a solid season with Barcelona’s first team in which he tallied four goals and seven assists in all competitions as an 18-year-old, Tottenham shelled out 6 million euros for dos Santos in the summer of 2008, with another 5 million to come based on his appearances for Spurs.
However, those appearances never came. The summer he was transferred, he had been widely recognized as one of the top talents in world soccer. He never quite broke into the first team, though, finding himself limited to a handful of appearances, even if a promising loan spell in the spring of 2009 at Ipswich Town provided some hope.
The 2009-10 season proved no better for dos Santos, and even a half season loan to Galatasaray, where he played under his former Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard, could not jump-start his career, and he couldn’t find the net a single time for the Turkish giant.
When he returned to London, he found his commitment questioned by Harry Redknapp and his attitude widely panned following his public questioning of Mexico manager Javier Aguirre’s decision to leave his brother Jonathan (who has stuck with Barcelona) out of El Tri’s 2010 World Cup squad.
Though a loan to Racing Santander proved promising in the first half of 2011, dos Santos now finds himself looking at the possibility of joining a sixth club with just under five years of professional soccer under his belt.
Not that he’s looked bad when he’s played this year. He’s put in some good performances in his limited time, granted, against opposition like fourth-division Cheltenham Town and Ireland’s Shamrock Rovers. But between his limited time with Spurs, his showings with the national team and his time in Spain, it is obvious he has the talent to compete at the top level.
While his attitude has certainly come under question, not to mention the influence of his father Zizinho, who has largely directed his son’s career – for better or worse – the fact remains that dos Santos has irrepressible talent. Not to mention, he is only 22, and while he has only had sporadic league experience, he has already won 53 caps for his national team, an impressive figure for that age.
(For comparison, Landon Donovan, who is on course to become one of the most capped players in men’s international soccer, had 57 caps at 22 years and 253 days, dos Santos’ exact age at the time of publication.)
However, the bottom line is that he needs playing time and to go somewhere where he can thrive to fulfill his promise. He certainly has the talent to remain in Europe. The question is, would a move to another Premier League side benefit him?
Perhaps. He would certainly get more playing time with an outfit such as Bolton or Wigan, where it is rumored he might spend the rest of the season. He would also get a chance to prove his mettle with both teams embroiled in a relegation battle and currently occupying the last two spots in the Premier League table.
But is it possible his future is better-served by a move abroad, back to Spain? After all, his two best spells – his initial season with Barcelona and his stint with Racing Santander in 2011 – came in La Liga, where his flair and technical ability would certainly be given space to thrive, certainly moreso than in England.
If he lands with Villarreal or Racing brings him back – two other rumored moves – he could have a prime opportunity to get his career back on track, though the environment is just one part of the equation. He will need to put in the work to prove he can still star for a club team and free himself of the influences that have been hampering his career, be they the nightlife or the people he surrounds himself with.
Giovani dos Santos may not turn out to be the superstar that many predicted he would be after a breakout performance at the U17 World Cup back in 2005. But if he plays his cards right, he can avoid the predictions of a flameout that have started trickling in as he moves from club to club.
Either way, he can keep making goalkeepers the world over look silly.