CARSON (AP) — Some 50 fans, many wearing Giovani dos Santos’ Mexican national team jersey, gathered to see the 26-year old before and after his second practice with the Galaxy on Tuesday.
They chanted his name, held up signs welcoming him to Los Angeles and clamored for autographs and pictures.
The media contingent was just as large and frenzied for dos Santos’ first news conference, which opened with a statement by Congressman Xavier Becerra, who represents the district that includes downtown Los Angeles.
He joked he wasn’t exactly sure why he was there.
Here’s why: Dos Santos gives the Galaxy and Major League Soccer a legitimate Mexican superstar capable of connecting with the region’s sizable Mexican immigrant and Mexican-American population.
“This is a big club. We have big players and I have come here to win, and I’m really excited to be here in Los Angeles,” said dos Santos, who spoke in both English and Spanish. “I’m very proud of being Mexican. It is going to be great to play here with my Mexican fans here in Los Angeles, and I hope I can represent very well my Mexican fans, all my Mexican people.”
Galaxy president Chris Klein acknowledged that the presence of dos Santos — who made his name scoring in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl — gives the club new commercial opportunities on both sides of the border. But Klein was more concerned with what it can do for the reputation of the Galaxy and MLS.
The league has long been regarded as the last stop before retirement for international stars.
But dos Santos joins under the age of 30 and in the prime of his career after stints at elite clubs such as Barcelona and Tottenham. Just two seasons removed from scoring 12 goals in 34 appearances for Villarreal in Spain’s La Liga, dos Santos was not lacking for opportunities in Europe but chose the Galaxy in the culmination of a four-year courtship that really got serious in 2013.
“In football, you never know what can happen,” dos Santos said. “Timing is important for any move, and for me it was the right moment to come here in the prime of my career. I’m ready to take that challenge.”
Dos Santos’ decision reflects efforts “to establish that this is a league of choice and we are the club of choice for players to come in the prime of their career, and so we’re looking forward to see how Giovani does,” Klein said. The most important goal for dos Santos, however, is to help the Galaxy continue its success on the field.
The Galaxy have won three of the last four MLS Cups, and are “aiming for something bigger,” Klein said, both domestically and in the CONCACAF Champions League.
“We want to set the standard for MLS like we’ve done so many times before,” Klein said. “We want to win everything that there is out there.”
Dos Santos will make his U.S. debut against Central FC of Trinidad and Tobago in the CONCACAF Champions League on Thursday, with his MLS debut set to come against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday.
While manager Bruce Arena did not specify where exactly dos Santos will line up, Arena was quick to note that it would definitely be “close to goal.” Whether he operates alongside or behind forward Robbie Keane or in the midfield, getting consistent play from dos Santos is the main objective for Arena. Dos Santos followed up his breakthrough 2013-14 campaign by scoring just one goal in 27 league games last season.
“I want him to be a great player for the LA Galaxy, for Mexico, but maybe not in October when they play in the Confederations Cup (playoff),” Arena joked.