The last two years have been particularly frenetic for Giovani dos Santos. Since leaving Barcelona for Tottenham Hotspur on the eve of the 2008/09 season, the Mexican forward has experienced his fair share of ups and downs, walking into the Spurs first team on his arrival and then falling out of favour when Harry Redknapp replaced Juande Ramos in the hot-seat.
Yet though his club fortunes took a dip, Dos Santos commendably maintained his international form, confirming his graduation from promising youngster to seasoned professional and cementing his place in the Mexico team.
With just six months to go before the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ kicks off, and short of first-team opportunities at Tottenham, the Mexican decided to accept Galatasaray’s offer of a loan deal. The move to the Turkish capital has reunited him with Frank Rijkaard, his former coach at Barça, and his main incentive in joining the Istanbul giants was to get some regular playing time under his belt, a vital factor in his bid to aid the Tricolor cause in South Africa.
The world at his feet
Though he is still only 20, Dos Santos is already a well-known figure on the global football scene, having first made a name for himself in guiding Mexico to glory at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2005. Along with the equally gifted Carlos Vela, he brought joy to his home nation, who afforded him and his team-mates a heroes’ welcome when they returned with the trophy to Mexico City.
A graduate of La Masia, Barcelona’s hugely productive youth academy, Dos Santos made his first-team debut for Los Azulgranas on 2 September 2007, appearing in 27 games in total that season and scoring four goals.
In the meantime, he maintained his brilliant form for his country, turning in more outstanding performances at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007, where he collected the adidas Bronze Ball to go with the adidas Silver Ball he pocketed in Peru two years earlier. Then came an eagerly awaited full international debut in a 1-0 victory over Panama on 9 September 2007.
Despite his promising beginning with Barcelona and his burgeoning international career, he decided to move to White Hart Lane and team up with former Sevilla coach Ramos, making regular starts under the Spaniard. A series of poor results quickly led to the coach's dismissal, however, and when Redknapp took over the young Mexican was promptly relegated to the bench. To make matters worse for Dos Santos, he was also criticised for some below-par performances for his country.
Sidelined at Tottenham, the Mexican found salvation in the English second tier with Ipswich Town. Quickly rediscovering the form that made him such a highly regarded prospect, he scored four goals in eight outings, becoming somewhat of an idol with the East Anglian outfit.
His resurgence in England prompted a return to the national side under the stewardship of Javier Aguirre. In inspiring Mexico to success at the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2009, he was named the player of the tournament, and he scored one goal and set up two in a crucial South Africa 2010 qualifying win over Costa Rica last September.
It is performances such as that, allied to his short darting runs, shooting ability and superb vision, that have made him a firm favourite with El Tri fans.
A return to the Tottenham bench following his loan spell at Ipswich was hardly ideal preparation for South Africa 2010, however. And with that in mind, Dos Santos accepted the invitation extended by Galatasaray during the recent transfer window, playing more minutes in his very first appearance for them than he had done in the Premier League with Spurs in the first half of the season.
The challenge is one he has been delighted to accept. “I was getting desperate,” he was quoted as saying. “It’s World Cup year and I want to go. Now I have to work, play some games and wait for Javier Aguirre’s decision. It’s my dream to play in South Africa and to fulfil it I have to be match fit and show the coach I’m playing well. That’s why I moved to Turkey: to show what I can do.”
If, indeed, Dos Santos does get the call from Aguirre, there is every reason to believe he will be pushing for the Hyundai Best Young Player Award when he gets to South Africa. Given his superb record in major finals, his army of fans would expect nothing less.
Dos Santos has been dating Mexican pop singer Belinda for more than a year.
Dos Santos is the only Mexican player ever to have won individual awards in different age categories: the adidas Silver Ball at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2005 and the adidas Bronze Ball at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007.
Dos Santos has two brothers: Eder, now retired from the game, and Jonathan, who is a member of the Barcelona first team and made his debut for Mexico in 2009.
Giovani’s father is the former Brazilian player Zizinho, who ran out in the 1980s for Mexican club America, still his son’s favourite team.