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Santos' Gael Sandoval progressing towards dream European move

Santos' Gael Sandoval progressing towards dream European move
From ESPN - July 16, 2017

When Hector Moreno signed a four-year deal with Romalast month, he could have been the second Mexican footballer to play for the Serie A club. In 2013, Santos Laguna's Gael Sandoval trained with the first team after impressing Roma scouts in theTorneo di Viareggio, where Sandoval played with Santos' Under-20s. Sandoval was only 17-years-old and the opportunities came fast.

"Imagine!" he said in an exclusive phone interview with ESPN FC. "I was just a young kid, who really did not know where he was. I did not understand the significance of the moment. All I knew was that I was at an important Serie A club, but really I had no knowledge of the magnitude of being there. I grew, started to mature in certain aspects, and now that I am older I realize that I had an incredible opportunity, of which I want right now. I want to go back, to Roma or any other club, but my experience in Italy left me that -- the desire to return."

There's an image of Sandoval jogging alongside Francesco Totti, which got the attention of the local press and got them asking about the young player training with the first team. A deal between Santos and Roma would never materialize, leaving the Guadalajara native to head back to Mexican football and wait for his chance in the first division.

Off an impressive 2017 Clausura, Sandoval finished the season as the Mexican footballer with the most assists -- five -- and his rise to prominence has been an emphatic one since his first division debut in August 2016. Sandoval's excellent Clausura allows him to enter a selected group that includes the likes of Rodolfo Pizarro, Orbelin Pineda, Cesar Montes, Edson Alvarez and Erick Gutierrez, all of whom are Mexican players who could one day follow in Hirving Lozano's footsteps and head to Europe.

A mature voice tone comes across when Sandoval talks, which explains what might have caused Juan Carlos Osorio's coaching staff to add him to the Gold Cup preliminary list.

"What I can tell you is that this past season with the players I had beside me like 'Osvaldito' Martinez, Ulises Rivas, our full-backs [Jorge Villafana and Jorge Sanchez], and the left forward, Jonathan Rodriguez, I was able to explode my dynamic quality and really this was due to Santos' dynamism found in the midfield. The fact that I was part of that gave me more stability, so I think that the security I showed in Santos' midfield and the touch I have got Osorio's attention."

Not making the final cut might have been a tough hit for Sandoval, but one he can learn a lot from. Luis Pompilio Paez, who was Mexico's acting coach while Osorio was withEl Triat the Confederations Cup in Russia, explained that although Sandoval did not make the Gold Cup final list, the door will always be open.

"Football takes many twists and turns," he said before Mexico's friendly against Ghana in late June. "In each call-up, what we look for is to find which players can be more influential in that moment... Football is not about the past; it's about the present and what's next."

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