Manuel Veth –
When the Los Angeles Galaxy travel to Vancouver on Saturday to meet the Whitecaps, it will no longer appear to be a squad of semi-retired European superstars. Long gone is the time when David Beckham donned the Galaxy shirt, and the short-lived experiment with Steven Gerrard has also ended. In fact, these days, the club’s biggest star is Giovani dos Santos.
Giovani dos Santos is a far cry from the likes of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, and Robbie Keane, who brought a distinct English Premier League flavour to the club. At just 27-years of age, Giovani dos Santos can still be considered in his prime and, despite his stint with Tottenham, dos Santos brings a very different flavour of football to the LA Galaxy.
Giovani dos Santos is the son of former Brazilian star Zizinho
Born in Monterrey, Giovani dos Santos is the son of Geraldo Francisco dos Santos, better known as Zizinho, a Brazilian, who played for several clubs in Mexico in the 1980s, and early 1990s. Zizinho had three sons, Éder, Giovani, and Jonathan, and all three represented Mexico at one level or another.
While Éder dos Santos failed to launch a successful international career and spent his entire professional career with Socio Águila, América’s second team that plays in the Ascensio MX, Giovani, and Jonathan managed promising careers in Europe. Both Giovani and Jonathan had been compelling for Mexico’s national youth teams, were picked up by Barcelona, and developed at La Masia, the club’s famous youth academy.
Despite their obvious talents, however, neither managed to establish themselves in Barcelona’s first squad.
Giovani dos Santos left the club in 2008 after his first full professional season. Following the money trail to England, Giovani dos Santos joined Tottenham in the summer of 2008. Jonathan dos Santos remained with Barcelona until 2014 but, after never really establishing himself in Barça’s first squad, he moved on to Villarreal.
Giovani dos Santos almost wasted his career in England
It may have proven to be the wiser decision. Giovani dos Santos quickly learned that patience is in short supply when it comes to English football. Tottenham loaned the young Mexican to Ipswich Town, Galatasaray, and Racing Santander, before selling him to Mallorca in 2012.
At Mallorca, Giovani dos Santos finally established himself in professional football. He scored six goals in 29 matches but, at the same time, Mallorca were relegated, and Giovani dos Santos left the club to join Villarreal.
At the Yellow Submarines, Giovani dos Santos managed 12 goals in 58 games. Then, in in 2014, he was joined by his brother Jonathan. The two played together for one full season, but in 26 games Giovani dos Santos managed just one goal in 26 games.
Hence, when LA Galaxy offered $7 million to Villarreal, and $6 million in annual salary in the summer of 2015, Giovani dos Santos quickly agreed to a transfer to the United States. It appeared that LA Galaxy were ending their strategy of signing older players from Europe.
At the time Giovani dos Santos was still just 25. Furthermore, his Mexican background promised enormous marketing potential in Southern California. The national team player, who has played 95 times for his country, would likely kindle the interest of the large Mexican population living in the greater Los Angeles area.
Giovani dos Santos took some time to adapt to MLS
But Giovani dos Santos took some time to arrive in Major League Soccer. In his first season with the club, dos Santos scored just three goals in 10 MLS games.
Things improved last season for the centre forward, who can play several positions up front. Playing together with Robbie Keane, dos Santos scored 13 goals in 28 games. LA Galaxy, however, was then eliminated in the Western Conference semi-final by the Colorado Rapids.
That semi-final round was especially disappointing for the Mexican forward. Dos Santos scored the only goal in LA Galaxy’s 1-0 victory over Colorado in the first leg. In the second leg, however, Colorado dominated the game and overturned the result with a 1-0 victory. Overtime brought no winner, and LA Galaxy where eliminated in the penalty shootout with Giovani dos Santos missing one of the penalties.
It end up being the final game for both Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard. Both Designated Players have now left the club and it is, therefore, expected that Giovani dos Santos will carry much more of the work load this season.
With LA Galaxy going younger, and with the Galaxy having to share the market with the Los Angeles Football Club, who will start to play next season, Giovani dos Santos will be required to be the main figure for his club both on and off the pitch.
Thus far, Giovani dos Santos has scored one goal in two games in the 2017 Major League Soccer season. He also missed matchday 3 with an injury. The Mexican has now declared himself fit, and could be the difference maker when the LA Galaxy visit the Whitecaps in BC Place on Saturday.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and podcaster for WorldFootballIndex.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.