Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard the news that the LA Galaxy are reportedly close to signing Giovani dos Santos. On the field Dos Santos will no doubt be a significant addition and fit perfectly in the Galaxy midfield. But what about off the field?
Potential Lost: From Phenom to Party-er
Dos Santos came of age in La Masia, the famed Barcelona youth academy. He made his debut for the first team at 17 and his potential was through the roof. He was already being billed as a star in the mold of Ronaldhino. But that’s when things took a turn for the worse, both on the field and off.
His transfer to Tottenham left him underwhelming on the field. He became known more for his exploits off the field than on. Suddenly the narrative on Dos Santos began to change. Instead of future world superstar, he was now the party player that got so drunk he had to be carried out of the Tottenham Christmas party.
Things got so bad that his manager at Tottenham, Harry Redknapp, once quipped he wished Dos Santos "Could pass a nightclub as well as he can pass a ball". And while he continued to perform well on the international stage (see his Gold Cup golazo), the future phenom joined the ranks of teen stars who never met their full potential at the club level.
Does Dos Santos Fit on the Galaxy?
The looming question facing the Galaxy is, "Where would Dos Santos fit on a Bruce Arena managed squad?" Tactically it shouldn't be much of an issue. But where does a player with Dos Santos’ reputation for partying and not practicing fit on this team?
Management guru Peter Drucker once observed that "culture eats strategy for breakfast". What is true for corporations is equally true for teams. The LA Galaxy have built an organization with a culture for winning, and winning in a certain way.
Bruce Arena is well noted for running a disciplined team. The types of DPs the Galaxy have signed during his tenure reflect the kinds of values he embodies. Steven Gerrard is a perfect example: hard working, immensely talented, disciplined, not likely to have off-the-field issues.
Giovani dos Santos couldn’t have a more different reputation. And while he may have matured a little in recent years, it’s fascinating that the Galaxy are reportedly considering taking a significant risk to bring him in. This could end poorly, just like his some of his previous stops. But what if it doesn’t?
Potential Regained: Finally Becoming a Galactico?
What if Bruce Arena is exactly the coach that Dos Santos needs at this stage in his career? He’s only 26, far from the retirement age of many previous MLS designated players. With the right discipline, manager, and older players like Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard as mentors, the Galaxy could present the perfect environment for Dos Santos to finally take off and reach his potential.
When you stop and think about it, this could be one of Bruce Arena’s greatest deals. Dos Santos needs Bruce Arena, a coach famous for seeing something in players that others overlook, to help him reach his unrealized potential. If Gio can humble himself and learn from the master, this might finally be the season he soars to new heights. He could be a Galactico among stars for the Galaxy.
Or Los Angeles could be yet another stop on the long list of decline of the former La Masia wunderkind.
It’s up to Gio.