LONDON — Giovani Dos Santos' two goals have Mexico on the cusp of the Olympic football quarterfinals. Yet Mexican officials wonder how much better their standout player could be if he found stability at club level.
Dos Santos has come off the bench to inspire Mexico in both of its matches, nearly netting in a scoreless draw with South Korea before scoring twice in Mexico's 2-0 victory over Gabon.
So while Dos Santos continues to impress with the national team, that form hasn't exactly carried over to club level. Since joining Tottenham from Barcelona in 2008, he's played for three clubs on loan in four seasons.
Mexico coach Luis Fernando Tena believes Dos Santos would be even more of an impact player if he was less of a nomad away from the national team.
"He's done well coming from the bench. If he keeps improving, he will get a chance. He needs to find a rhythm to improve," Tena said. "It would be better to have that rhythm at club level. Unfortunately, he doesn't get many minutes at Tottenham. Playing more at club level would make him better for Mexico."
Mexico looked nothing like a medal contender in its pair of games until Dos Santos came on to alter the face of both matches, although more effectively against Gabon.
It's unclear whether he will start in the Group B finale against Switzerland on Wednesday with a draw enough to secure passage to the last eight.
"I think we are all important to this team but I've shown that I am at a good level and that I can play well for the team," the 23-year-old Dos Santos said. "We're improving bit by bit and hopefully we'll win a medal, which is why we came here."
Dos Santos, who started all four of Mexico's World Cup matches two years ago, has always seemed to raise his game for the national team, including scoring a memorable goal in the Gold Cup final victory over the United States in 2011.
He came through Barcelona's famed La Masia youth academy before going to north London after his only full season with the Spanish league club.
Ankle injuries limited his possibilities of breaking into Tottenham's starting squad, and he's made less than a dozen appearances in four seasons for Spurs, while going on to play at Ipswich Town, Racing Santander and Galatasaray in Turkey.
Still, Dos Santos remains with Tottenham and seems inclined to try and break into new coach Andre Villas-Boas' team this season.
"With Tottenham being here in the UK, it's very special for me" to play at the Olympics in London, Dos Santos said.
At the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Dos Santos could have another chance to make Villa-Boas and fellow Olympics rivals take notice.
"There is no doubt he is making me think a lot on whether we should keep him as a sub or start him," Tena said. "When Gio and Marco (Fabian) play up front together, there was a clear improvement in our attacking system. Everything starts up front."