Paulo Henrique Ganso 21 Midfielder Santos
Whether or not you know any of the names on this list, there’s a good chance that you’ll be familiar with the two Santos prodigies, Neymar and Paulo Henrique. Even if you haven’t caught either play (you’ve missed out, you really have), there’s still a likelihood that you’ll be aware of the huge buzz that surrounds two young players at Pelé’s spiritual home.
Paulo Henrique Chagas de Lima, or Ganso (for the record, it means goose…..make of that what you will), is the classic trequartista, the playmaker, a natural number 10. Whilst no slouch, Ganso is not what you would describe as pacy, he is not a colossus in the air, but he is physically strong. No matter, Ganso sees passes. He can twist, shimmy and then release, and for a striker of any repute, Ganso is a dream to play alongside. He can score goals too.
The other name we mentioned above is Neymar, equally skilful but more of a finisher than his team mate. That he has become such a star is largely down to his own ability, but the support, and supply, from Ganso’s truly divine left foot should not be overlooked when assessing Neymar’s ascendance.
Like so many young Brazilians, Ganso polished his close control skills playing futsal, and was identified by former Santos star Giovanni, then working as a scout for his former club, as a midfielder of huge potential. Arriving at Santos at the relatively senior age of 15, Ganso progressed through the academy for his club and was awarded a debut in early 2008.
With Santos struggling and once again witnessing the perennial departure of its better players, Peixe had little option but to blood some of its best youngsters. A move which hugely benefitted Ganso and several others.
Few clubs, even by Brazil’s often outrageous standards, have such an eventful history as Santos and while there is an overwhelming belief that they must be THE dominant force in South America, league form in Brazil’s national league has been patchy at best, even with their talismanic young pair in tow.
However it is in the regionalised Campeonato Paulista that Santos have really excelled over the last two years and their third Copa Libertadores title (the first since 1963 and Pelé) earlier this year has been a high water mark. Success over the last twenty four months has been largely driven by Ganso who has dictated matches, pulled the strings, set up and scored goals in equal measure.
Lauded by Pelé and Socrates amongst others, Paulo Henrique Ganso is a truly marvelous and wonderfully gifted young player. However, things aren’t completely rosy.
After a feverant media campaign to promote the on fire Ganso into the 2010 Brazilian World Cup squad, coach Dunga resisted the call, suggesting the protégé may not be quite ready. That Brazil stuttered as badly as they did in South Africa may have proved the coach wrong, but the period since public clamour for his inclusion was at a peak has not been easy for Paulo Henrique.
One of the first acts of Mano Menezes following his elevation to the national coach role in 2010 was to afford Ganso an international debut against the USA. Invariably Ganso played well, but just as things were gaining momentum he suffered a particularly nasty knee ligament injury that would rule him out of all football until March this year.
Upon returning to Santos’ first team, Ganso picked up where he had left off, scoring the winner as a half time substitute against Botafogo. Some good, and then not so good performances ensued. After arriving on a stage he was supposed to dominate, Ganso was underwhelming for Brazil in the Copa América this summer. He wasn’t the only one.
Performances since have dipped again and the effects of that knee injury have clearly knocked the stuffing out of a very good player.
All said and done though, this sort of injury, while not good, shouldn’t prove as devastating as it may have for a forward or winger more reliant on pace . The brain, eyes, close control and body strength won’t be affected; they just appear to need realigning. There may also be a levelling off, a correction for a player that is, after all, still just 22 and under huge pressure to perform.
We remain sure that Ganso will dominate matches again; it just may take a little while. We’ll keep an eye on him though, you should too.
"On a whole, progress has temporarily stalled under a heavy cloud of speculation and hype." - Mathhew Burgess (Journalist)
"I personally think he'll be a more important player for Brazil than Neymar in the long-term." - Brian Maxwell (Journalist)
"Injuries have hampered his progress, but he remains a key figure for Santos. Menezes will also want him back to his best." - Jack Lang (Snap, Kaká and Pop)
C- Back to basics. Adapt and grow.