As San Jose Earthquakes general manager John Doyle sorted through the possibilities for attacking players to add to his side during the midseason transfer window, he initially paid scant attention to Brazilian midfielder Geovanni.
It wasn’t that Doyle thought the 30-year-old – who had previously played at Barcelona and starred at Benfica – wouldn’t help his team; quite the opposite, in fact.
“He’s one of those players that you think, ‘Man, we’re not going to be able to get this one, but what a player,’” Doyle told MLSsoccer.com.
But, with some diligent work over the last two months, Doyle proved himself wrong and, in the process, secured his franchise’s first Designated Player.
The Quakes reached an agreement Monday with Geovanni, giving the team’s playoff chances a potentially huge boost over the final third of the MLS schedule. With an ITC still pending, the attacker is expected to make his Quakes debut Aug. 28 in New York.
“His ability to help us in this playoff run, that’s what makes me excited,” Doyle said. “I think everyone from our players to our front office to our fans should be excited that we were able to get a player of this caliber.”
Geovanni should bolster a San Jose attack that had been flagging in recent weeks. He will be an asset on set pieces and could be a playmaker the likes of which the Quakes haven’t had since being re-established in 2008.
“He’s great on free kicks,” Doyle said. “I think he’s going to lift everybody around us. He’s an excellent passer on the ball, he’s excellent with the ball on his feet, he’s a good soccer player all the way around. He does everything quite well.”
The position where Geovanni has spent the most time is attacking midfielder, but that’s the same role best suited to Jamaican international Khari Stephenson, who marked his Quakes debut Saturday by delivering a picture-perfect chipped cross to Chris Wondolowski for the only goal in a 1-0 win against Kansas City.
Therefore, Geovanni could see time as a second forward, roaming behind Wondolowski, who leads the team with seven goals. Wherever he lines up on the field, though, expect him to be in the center of the action for the Quakes.
“Let’s just say we’re not going to be depending on him to defend,” Doyle said. “We’re going to depend on him to set up goals and score goals and do it all [offensively].”
Doyle said he first started looking at Geovanni six to eight weeks ago, mostly just as due diligence. But after the Brazilian’s agent responded favorably to inquiries, Quakes ownership gave Doyle the green light to spend the funds necessary to secure a player who had been making a reported $40,000 a week with Hull City before the relegated Tigers terminated his contract this summer in a cost-cutting move.
“We got to a point where we thought we could do it financially and wanted to see if ownership would agree, and ownership agreed,” Doyle said. “That was awesome.”
At that point, Brazilian midfielder Andre Luiz, who played with Geovanni at Cruzeiro in 1999, was enlisted both to gauge his former teammate’s level of interest in MLS but also to sell him on the upside of Quakes coach Frank Yallop and the rest of the organization.
“From that standpoint, it’s a tribute to Frank, the way he treats the players,” Doyle said, pointing out that even though Andre Luiz suffered a season-ending knee injury, “We’ve honored everything we’ve ever said to people.”
From there, it was a matter of hammering out financial terms that both sides could live with. The deal is for the remainder of this season with a team option for 2011. And though it represents a step down from his former salary, Geovanni is not coming cheaply. The Quakes are putting in the capital cost to try to secure a playoff berth.
“John [Fisher, Quakes co-owner], Lew [Wolff, Quakes co-owner] and Mike [Crowley, team president], they told me to be creative, but you can’t get a player like that for nothing,” Doyle said. “I was as creative as possible, but he’s still a big-time DP.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @sjquakes.