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Eric Gomez: Jonathan dos Santos determined to change family history

Eric Gomez: Jonathan dos Santos determined to change family history

Jonathan dos Santos, Barcelona

The Barcelona youngster has a chance to overshadow his older brother Giovani, who was unable to stick around with the Spanish giants.

Upon arriving at the helm of FC Barcelona in 2008, Josep Guardiola's first order of business was to clean house. The tail end of the Rijkaard era had only succeeded in bringing down a once mighty machine built around the explosive offensive talent of Ronaldinho Gaucho, whose form had dipped, whose presence on the pitch was eclipsing the rise of a certain youngster named Lionel Messi. Most notably though, the problem had been locker room chemistry. Dinho's antics provoked a split amongst the team, or so said the Catalan press.

Guardiola would eventually say goodbye to Ronaldinho over the summer break, as he would with Lilian Thuram, Gianluca Zambrotta, Edmilson and others vital to the first Golden Era for the culés in the current century. Some left due to declining stats, others were simply too expensive. A select group were axed due to their loyalty to Ronaldinho, who had provoked the ire of Guardiola by focusing more on living the good life that the north of Spain could provide than giving it all on the pitch.

The very first player that Pep shipped out on these grounds was talented Mexican forward Giovani dos Santos, who at "just" 11 million euros (this figure is disputed, and depended ultimately on Gio's playing time) was considered an absolute steal of a buy for Tottenham Hotspur.

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Of course, this has not been the case at all. While Harry Redknapp has turned Tottenham into a team that actually has a say in the EPL as well as making them relevant in Europe for the first time in ages, Dos Santos has watched it all unfold from the comfort and safety of the White Hart Lane stands. The former Racing loanee's talent is undeniable. His commitment to the craft and work ethic, however, have come into question several times.

This has not become lost on the youngest member of the Dos Santos clan. Jonathan dos Santos, all of 22 years of age, has been informed that next season, he will be a full member on the best football squad on Planet Earth. His confidence is notable. "Barcelona will keep betting on the talent that comes from La Masía... I think I'm going to contribute quite a bit next year," he said recently. As luck would have it, he'll be mentored by Xavi, Iniesta, Fábregas and Thiago among others. Unfortunately, those are all the same players he will need to compete with for playing time under Tito Vilanova.

Yes, Jonathan dos Santos has had his slip-ups. And yes, they've been pretty notorious. Hookergate is not just a term that describes a scandal involving South American prostitutes and Secret Service agents, but also one that describes South American prostitutes cavorting with Mexican footballers days before they were due to take part in the Copa América. Of the eight players tainted by that scandal, the FC Barcelona midfielder was one of them.

Prior to that, Dos Santo's father, the former Mexican Primera División star Zizinho, was incensed at the revelation that his youngest son would be left off the 2010 World Cup roster for Mexico, and famously threatened that Jonathan would now be looking to play for Brazil or Spain at the national team level. Zizinho apparently forgot that Jonathan's senior squad appearances made it difficult for him to transition to another country... not to mention the level of competition he would face at the Seleçao or La Roja.

Why then, should Mexican fans, CONCACAF observers and football junkies as a whole be enticed to follow the development of Dos Santos at Barcelona? Chances will come for him on the pitch. Whether they be due to Xavi's fatigue or Iniesta's injuries, the rotation of players at Camp Nou will deposit Dos Santos in some key matches over the course of next season.

In limited appearances, Jonathan dos Santos has shown the flair that both his father and brother possess, combining it with the exquisite Barcelona style of play that almost by default makes him a more than adequate generator of football as well as a defender. His position mimics that of Guardiola, Xavi, Iniesta, et al. He's a pure pivot, the player numerically identified on the pitch as a '4' in blaugrana lore, he who is not exactly a holding midfielder but is essentially one of the strongest links between defense and offense in the Barça machine.

Much to the chagrin of Zizinho, Jonathan will have a little longer to fully break through at Barcelona and with El Tri. However, watching his big brother slip and fall as much as he has while learning from his own screw-ups has hardened Jonathan dos Santos enough to see his work pay off starting in July of this year, just after the sun sets on the Pep Guardiola Era.

That is... unless Tito Vilanova's summer transfer policy has anything to do with it.

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