LANDOVER, Md. — It’s been one rollercoaster of a summer for FC Barcelona’s Jonathan dos Santos.
From the lows of being disciplined and dismissed from Mexico’s Copa América squad, to the highs of playing in every one of FC Barcelona’s preseason matches, including Saturday night’s 2-1 loss to Manchester United, the 21-year-old dos Santos is on a mission.
“I’ve had problems this summer, and the truth is that what I have to do is to show myself on the field to silence a lot of people,” he told MLSsoccer.com on Saturday night. “I’m not in my ideal spot on the field but I think I’m doing a good job.”
The ideal spot for dos Santos is anywhere in midfield, where he has proven to be a solid two-way player. But a shortage of right backs has meant that manager Josep “Pep” Guardiola has had to resort to using Dos Santos on the back line. He has now started the last two matches at the position, against Bayern Munich and Manchester United no less, coping well despite not always looking comfortable.
“Wherever they put me, I’m there to play,” dos Santos said after the match. “Playing at right back is not my position but I am adapting and I believe I’m doing well.”
On a star-studded squad with world-class midfielders like Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta, dos Santos is trying to carve out his roster spot on the senior squad this year. He admits that he’s received no indication from Guardiola just yet and the coach was non-committal.
“His position is midfielder but we don’t have any right backs,” Guardiola said, citing the absence of Dani Alves and Adriano and the injury to reserve team player Martín Montoya. “I use him because he’s a bright kid, he’s versatile and can play every position in midfield. And he gave us a hand.
“Each time he’s more integrated in this position and as long as we can use him we will always take him into account. I’m very happy with his performance the other day and today.”
It’s that kind of support that has lifted the young player after one of the down moments of his early years as a professional soccer player. While in camp with the Mexican Under-22 side that was preparing to participate in the Copa América, dos Santos was allegedly involved in an unauthorized party, which earned him the boot from the squad. He’s had to pick himself up amid a slew of public criticism.
“Yes, the truth is that the support that Pep here at Barcelona, and all my teammates I think has done me very well,” he said. “I think everything is forgotten and now I’m doing what I love to do which is playing soccer with the club that watched me grow up.”
The Spanish giants recruited dos Santos as a young boy to their world-famous academy, La Masía, where he has trained and honed his game since 2002. On Saturday he was starting at right back against Manchester United in the high-profile match-up of the World Football Challenge in front of a sold-out FedEx Field.
“It was a difficult game,” he said of the 2-1 loss. “We had to play against the second best team in the world and I’m sad for the loss but happy with the effort of the team. The fans were incredible. We’re thankful for all the support they give us.”