"It fills me with joy to see him play for his national team because I know his family pretty well and I hang out with him a lot off the pitch." These were Ronaldinho’s words about Giovani Dos Santos to John Sutcliffe, prior to the 2007 Mexico vs. Brazil match in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
At the time they were both FC Barcelona players, the student learning from the teacher, and the maestro teaching the student. Their jogo bonito enchanted culé fans worldwide. Ronaldinho embodied Barcelona’s new era, while Giovani represented a typical culé academy player: a footballer hungry to triumph and win titles.
In 2008, both parted ways with the club. Ronaldinho’s Barcelona era concluded, while Giovani took a risk and accepted a ludicrous offer from Juande Ramos at Tottenham Hotspur. Their lives changed.
AC Milan’s Ronaldinho was not the one who enchanted Spain and the world while he wore blaugrana colors. As a Barcelona player he was unstoppable, relentless, a magician wearing soccer cleats. The Ronaldinho in Milan looked impoverished; the smiles, samba lessons, and magician tricks were rare. His light, which once illuminated the world of soccer, was slowly fading.
Giovani bumped into a series of roadblocks. Juande Ramos, who brought Gio to London, was sacked early in the season. England proved to be a dazzling world to Mexico’s starlet. Distractions acted as darts and came from different directions, all attempting to hit their target: Giovani. It was tough, unpleasant, and uncomfortable to restart a soccer career away from Barcelona, and this chaos was reflected in Gio’s acts on and off the pitch.
Times have changed. Ronaldinho plays for Flamengo, while Giovani still calls White Hart Lane his home. While Dinho is in his early thirties, Gio is barely in his young twenties. Their life as genuine footballers has caused them to live unique lives with brand new experiences at every turn.
What Giovani has experienced up to this date in the soccer world may not be the same for a player who is 32 and has played his entire career in Mexico or Argentina. Ever since South Africa's World Cup, Giovani’s maturity and outlook in life have reached an optimal level. Prime example is his attitude with Tottenham’s manager, Harry Redknapp.
Ronaldinho is inspired; he wants to participate in a World Cup in his own country. Can he become that orchestrator or the leader Brazil desires? His trajectory is impeccable and his Youtube videos and samba lessons will be remembered forever. His genes require him to continue awing the current football spectator.
Torreon’s Territorio Modelo has the honor to see one of the few modern-day teacher-student tandems go at it, in an international friendly between Mexico and Brazil on Tuesday. It is true that Neymar will pay his second visit to Torreon, for Brazil’s Santos played against Los Guerreros in the stadium’s inauguration. It is true that this upcoming match could signify Oswaldo Sanchez’s last game representing Mexico. It is true Chepo de La Torre is vying to maintain his undefeated record against el pentacampeon del mundo.
But what is most true is that fans on Tuesday will hold witness to a reunion of two old friends, two old teammates, and two incredible football talents.
Will there be a lot of goals? It does not matter if there will be zero, one, or two. Will there be a lot of smiles? Yes, because the teacher and the student will try to showcase their football art and magic to the world one more time.