Not only did the Black & Gold invest in Santos himself, paying a reported $2.3 million transfer — the richest deal in club history — and making him the third Designated Player on the roster, but the group invested in winning.
“I think it speaks volumes to the commitment of (owner Anthony) Precourt,” head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter said of the move. “He was pushing me to get this done. He was pushing me to make this signing. We wanted to bring in a high quality player and he wanted to move the needle on it. That says how much he’s committed to this club; it says how much he wants to win.”
With the addition of Santos, the Black & Gold bring in a player with over 100 appearances in the Primeira Liga, Portugal’s top league, and someone who has played 13 times in the Europa League, one of Europe’s top tournaments.
At 29 years old, Santos adds another veteran presence to one of the youngest teams in Major League Soccer, something Berhalter was looking for in a signing.
“That was key,” he said. “We had a number of high potential candidates and the way we looked at it is we have a lot of guys with high potential. We need guys that are able to perform from day one. So that had a lot to do with it.
We weren’t crazy about the age, but we also see a positive in it. And the positive is he knows how to play, he’s been around, he has experience and he’s performed at a high level for a long time.”
As for what Santos will look like in a Crew SC uniform, think something similar to what winger Justin Meram has brought to the table this season.
“I would describe myself as a fast player. I like to play one v. one and I like to score,” Santos said through a translator.
“He’s a very smart soccer player. Very smart, very good technically,” Berhalter said of Santos. “He’ll be able to change the rhythm of the game, to slow down the game at times, to bring other players into the game. And then he has, around goal, when you talk about making the final pass, making the final shot, he has that ability.
“We envision him being able to give final passes and create opportunities for himself. He’s very good at sidestepping a player and getting a shot off and we expect to see some of that in the games.”
While Meram has provided a spark from the left wing for much of the season, Columbus has failed to get that from the other side of the pitch.
A combination of Ethan Finlay, Kektua Manneh and rookie Niko Hansen have combined for four goals and four assists from the right wing, while Meram has tallied nine goals and seven assists on his own.
Berhalter would like to see the production from the right increase, and that’s where he believes Santos, a player with 24 goals and 19 assists during his time with SC Braga, can help the team.
“I think he’s going to be a key contributor,” Berhalter said. “I think he’s going to have a to contribute for us to be successful. I think he can contribute and I think when you start adding some of these pieces to our attack, we certainly become more dangerous.”
Like with any player joining a new club, there will need to be some time to acclimate. Santos trained with his new teammates for the first time on Tuesday in order to begin to develop the necessary chemistry.
“It was good,” Santos said of day one. “I got to meet the team for the first time and training went well I thought, so I hope it continues that way.
“(My teammates) were very good, they were very friendly and they tried to speak Portuguese.”
With the European season just getting underway, Santos comes to Crew SC fresh off preseason. He played in a Europa League match last Thursday, before the signing went through over the weekend.
“I feel pretty well,” Santos said of his fitness. “I have been training with my previous team and played a few games with them and I feel like I’m in a good spot.”
It is unlikely that the Black & Gold faithful will see Santos in this weekend’s game against the Chicago Fire as the team waits for his work visa to arrive, a process that can take multiple weeks. But this gives him time to get used to his new teammates and begin to develop an understanding in the Columbus playing style.
When he is eligible to play, Santos hopes to make an early mark in MLS for Crew SC and help this team over the hump and into the postseason.
“I think I can still help,” he said. “I will do my best to give everything to the team and help them as much as possible in what’s left of the season.”