Mexico Camp Focus – Dos Santos with chance to shine for beleaguered Mexico

Mexico begin their Copa America 2011 campaign on July 4 against Chile, and the fixture is likely to prove a welcome return to football after the distraction of the build-up to the competition that saw eight members of El Tri’s young squad sent home for a breach of discipline. In what was already an experimental travelling party, the loss of a further group of players took Mexico’s largely under-23 side from outsiders to relative unknowns on the world stage.

Only two of the players in stand-in Coach Luis Fernando Tena’s squad have caps to their name that rank in double figures, Giovani dos Santos (45) and Paul Aguilar (16). Dos Santos is the only player in the group to ply his trade outside his home country, and the only player in the group to have scored more than two goals for Mexico – indeed, only three players in the squad have scored for the national team at all. Much responsibility rests on the shoulders of dos Santos, then, and the tournament has been largely viewed as an opportunity for the Tottenham Hotspur forward to put his career back on track and himself in the shop window. Bursting on to the scene with Barcelona in 2007 and scoring a hat-trick for Los Cules against Murcia in 2008, dos Santos has been a study in wasted potential ever since.

Dos Santos’ time at Spurs has been marked by indiscipline and indifferent performances, although with only 20 appearances in three seasons, more of the former than the latter. Signed from Barcelona in 2008 for a shade under £9m, dos Santos has spent more time away from White Hart Lane than gracing its turf. Three loan spells, to Ipswich Town, Galatasaray and Racing Santander have provided regular escape routes for the dos Santos, whose problem was summed up neatly when Harry Redknapp said: “If he could pass a nightclub as well as he can pass a ball he would be alright. If he knuckles down he could be a top player this year.” Redknapp was speaking ahead of the 2010/11 season which dos Santos ended on loan in Spain, suggesting he did not quite manage to avoid London’s nightlife.

Ironically, it is the nocturnal activities of his teammates that provide dos Santos with added responsibility during the Copa America. Although dos Santos was already set to be part of the squad before the spate of exclusions, there were a handful of notable names in the banned group with potential to shine in Argentina, not least Giovani’s younger brother Jonathan dos Santos. A mesmeric dribbler with the pace of a sprinter, the Tottenham player has the qualities to light up a somewhat sober tournament, and the chance to show he can be relied upon. However, if dos Santos performs this month his future seems to lie away from Spurs while Mexico’s aims for the competition are merely preparation for next year’s Olympics, but if dos Santos inspires the Central Americans to something greater, his list of suitors will grow accordingly.

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