Tom Marshall: Jonathan Dos Santos’ high-risk decision

Dos Santos is putting his chances of making Mexico's World Cup squad on the line by sticking with Barcelona.
Barcelona midfielder Jonathan Dos Santos has had to finely balance two pulling factors this summer when coming to a decision about his future.

On one hand, there is the small matter of the World Cup next summer in Brazil, which Dos Santos was very clear this week in saying that is a high priority for him – despite not featuring for Mexico since February 2012 and only having six caps in total to his name.

Then there was the pull of Barcelona, the club that developed Dos Santos and – as hardly needs re-emphasizing – one of the world’s elite soccer institutions.

In the end, Dos Santos opted to stay with Los Cules and reject the chance of what would’ve pretty much guaranteed minutes at Champions League participants Real Sociedad, or one of the other clubs that he admitted were tracking him.

What is certain is that Dos Santos was on the verge of leaving before Tito Vilanova unfortunately suffered a reoccurrence of his throat cancer.

It’s a high-risk, make-or-break strategy from the Monterrey-born Jonathan and his advisors, which, on the positive side, could see him play games for Barcelona and waltz into that central midfield role in the national team, which desperately needs a sprinkling of new ideas.

Alternatively, Dos Santos could be on the bench or, worse, in the reserves again, cast far away from El Tri and, at 24 when the World Cup comes round, still an unknown quantity when it comes to him playing to a high standard consistently. If that is the case, coach Jose Manuel de la Torre is justified in not calling him up.

Sure, Dos Santos has three La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey and a Champions League medal tucked away somewhere or other, but he’s only ever featured in eleven league games for Barcelona and he’s approaching what should be the prime of his career.

Considering the forcefulness of Dos Santos’ comments earlier in the week about playing in Brazil – his father’s home country - next summer as being a major ambition, it seems a safe assumption that new Barca coach Gerardo Martino has given the Mexican some guarantees about his future role and even the chance to leave in the winter transfer window should things not work out.

Despite Dos Santos’ good friend Thiago Alcantara leaving and the interest from Manchester United in Cesc Fabregas potentially prying him away from Barcelona, the landscape at La Masia is still filled with plenty of fine midfielders.

The good preseason with three starts so far bodes well for Dos Santos, but Barcelona was without Xavi and Andres Iniesta, both of which are sure starters when Martino has all his players available.

Then in the holding midfield position, which Dos Santos could also potentially play, Sergio Busquets is the starter, with Argentina captain Javier Mascherano the back-up.

Alex Song, Sergi Roberto, Kiko and Javier Espinosa are also looking for minutes and there are a host of options in Barcelona’s famous youth system desperate to make their mark.

So while Martino may have convinced Dos Santos of his place at Barca, there can’t be any guarantee that he’ll get enough minutes in his boom or bust season to make the national team for Brazil. A fascinating 12 months lies ahead in the career of the younger Dos Santos brother.