Barcelona coach facing Giovani headache

August 9, 2007

Giovani celebrates a goal against Yokohama F-Marinos on Barcas pre-season tour. Toru Hanai / Reuters

Ron Dennis thinks he has problems with Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton at McLaren. What about poor Frank Rijkaard, the Barcelona coach who is going to have to keep the entire Fabulous Five happy next season?

The debate over whether it is possible for Barcelona to field Samuel Etoo, Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry at the same time has taken a new twist with the arrival on the scene of Giovani dos Santos.

The 18-year-old Mexican forward has been the standout player of Barcas pre-season scoring three goals so far and impressing with his pace, skill and eye for goal.

Like Argentina forward Lionel Messi he has been groomed through Barcas youth ranks and looks set to make as big an impact as Messi did in his first season in the Primera Liga.

But with Henry, Etoo, Ronaldinho and Messi in front of him in the pecking order, will he get much of a look in?

Coach Frank Rijkaard has been impressed and has jokingly dubbed him his secret weapon, but is unlikely to change from his usual 4-3-3 formation unless he is chasing a game.

Giovani completely overshadowed Rijkaards first experiment of starting with Etoo, Henry and Ronaldinho in Asia on Tuesday, coming on for an out-of-sorts Henry to deliver the games only goal against Yokohama F-Marinos.

To play him regularly risks upsetting the fragile egos of the more established players, who managed to fall out with each other without the presence of Giovani or Henry last season, but the fans will surely demand to see more of him.

And that’s without even mentioning Bojan Krkic, a player we’ve already dubbed the new Messi on this blog

Mark Elkington, Madrid

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