Ever since Giovani Dos Santos showed his skills at the 2005 U17 World Cup, it was clear that he was going to be a player to follow.
He was just 16 years old at that time and was the only footballer on the team who was not playing on Mexican soil. Dos Santos was arrived in La Masia at age 11. He quickly became an undisputed starter with the youth teams, including Barcelona B.
Son of Brazilian player Zizinho, who appeared with Mexican clubs America, Leon and Necaxa, to name a few, it was clear that Gio had the technique and playing style of his father.
In the U17 World Cup, Dos Santos didn’t score, but that was far from being a concern. He became the brains on the pitch.
His fantastic touch and creativity gave Mexico depth and goal opportunities. No other footballer made as many assists as Dos Santos, who bagged a total of seven. His nearest competitor was Brazil’s Anderson, who had six.
Dos Santos’ brilliance earned him the Silver Ball, reaffirming that he was one of El Tri’s top players alongside Carlos Vela, who grabbed the Golden Shoe.
Gio was the kind of player Mexico lacked. He had fantastic dribbling skills, fine touch, speed and intelligence, which gave the team a lot of attacking options.
He quickly became one of the most promising footballers of the country.
Dos Santos returned to Spain and eventually made his debut with Barcelona’s senior team. His future seemed bright until he arrived in Tottenham Hotspur, where he not only barely played but was loaned on a regular basis.
His lack of playing time didn’t seem to hurt him much, though.
However, he became an undisputed starter with Mexico's senior squad and proved to have enough talent to make a difference on the pitch.
Gio appeared 30 times with El Tri, 27 of them in the starting XI, including at the 2010 World Cup. In that period, he also scored six times with the national team.
Dos Santos played 90-minute games, making a difference despite barely appearing on a club level because his talents—fine touch, ability to create space and unbalance the rivals—made him a valuable asset. No other player on the team had those kind of skills.
Once he arrived in Spain, he started to appear on a regular basis, which helped him get back in shape. His rhythm was also better.
One of his finest tournaments was the 2011 Gold Cup. He proved to be on the right track to becoming one of the best Mexican footballers.
Gio reminded us of the kid we saw back in 2005. He created goal opportunities, helped his teammates and even scored, and he did it in style.
Granted, injuries have gotten in his way, but he still makes a huge difference whenever he’s on the pitch.
Dos Santos is just 26 years old. He will probably make the 2018 World Cup, and if he keeps the momentum going, we could even see him in 2022.
As time has gone by, Gio has become a far more complete player, and all the trust and playing time he has received in Spain will also benefit Mexico.
Dos Santos has a fantastic set of skills in addition to the hunger to make a difference on the pitch, and the good news is he has a long way to go.