For Brazilian midfielder Geovanni, there was a very simple reason he picked San Jose from the various offers he had worldwide.
“You always have to go where somebody can be happy,” he explained through a translator.
There were plenty of happy people on the dais at the San Jose Fairmont on Friday, as Geovanni was introduced for the first time to the Bay Area media.
Among them was Quakes general manager John Doyle, who engineered the signing of the franchise’s first-ever designated player. Also present: coach Frank Yallop, who commented on the rarity of working with a player of Geovanni’s caliber when he’s still only 30 years old.
Then there was the player himself, back from a whirlwind two-day trip to Tijuana to get the proper stamp on his P-1 visa, which makes him available for play tomorrow as the Quakes host their archrivals, the league-leading Los Angeles Galaxy.
“I had a lot of offers in different places,” said Geovanni, who later revealed he weighed deals from a team in Germany, another in Turkey and two from Brazil since his release from relegated Hull City. “The most important thing was I spoke to Andre [Luiz, the Quakes’ veteran midfielder] and Andre said it was a great place to live. I talked to John and John treated me very well. I thought it would be a great place to come. I’m excited to be here.”
At 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds, Geovanni looks slight for the rough-and-tumble style of play in MLS. Then again, the EPL, where Geovanni spent his last three seasons, is not exactly a place where crunching tackles are unheard of.
“It shouldn’t be a problem to adapt to here, because I’ve played in a lot of places – Brazil, Spain, Portugal, England – and I feel comfortable being able to adapt quickly,” Geovanni said. “In England, it’s very fast and very physical, so I’m ready for anything.”
For Doyle, the day capped several weeks spent chasing the final piece for a San Jose roster that’s been buffeted by injury but always lacked a playmaker of Geovanni’s ilk. The GM chided critics who have knocked the team’s penurious ways since being re-established in 2008.
“There’s been some discussion through different outlets that there’s not a huge commitment to winning here,” Doyle said. “The question [from ownership] was never about, ‘Will Geovanni sell more tickets?’ It was always about, ‘Will this player help us to get to the playoffs?’”
“It’s a realistic goal," Yallop affirmed. "We’re in a good spot right now as a team. I think someone like Geovanni is going to really help us get over the edge."
Quakes midfielder Andre Luiz, a former teammate of Geovanni’s a decade ago at Cruzeiro in Brazil, thinks his compatriot is San Jose’s missing link.
“Because he played at Barcelona and Manchester City, the big teams, I think right now he’ll be better than 10 years ago, with that experience,” Andre Luiz said. “He’ll be great for us. We need a player like that.”
Yallop reiterated his intention to use Geovanni as a roaming second forward behind a lead striker (presumably Chris Wondolowski, the team’s leading scorer with seven goals), at least to begin with. Yallop said definitively that Geovanni – who’s had only two days of training with the team and hasn’t had a competitive match since the end of the 2009-10 Premier League season – will not start Saturday against Los Angeles.
But he will be looking to get Geovanni on the pitch in some fashion.
“It obviously is a big signing for us, but we’ve got to try to win the game,” Yallop said. “If we’re winning and doing well, it might be a cameo at the end.”
A lot of somebodies at Buck Shaw Stadium can be happy if that’s the way things turn out.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes