The current Brazilian football landscape is one where midfields are overwhelmingly populated by either defensive colossi or quick, nippy attacking midfielders. There are only a few players who deviate from these two extremes. One of these is Paulo Henrique Lima, otherwise known by his moniker, Ganso (Goose in Portuguese). He stands out in contemporary Brazilian football as a beautiful anachronism. Ganso’s existence harkens back to a time that has long been visible solely in the annals of history. It was an era in Brazil when pensive, artistic midfielders were plentiful, and their magic held crowds spell-bound.
This was a large part of the reason why Ganso’s emergence at Santos in 2010 was so heralded. At his best, the young playmaker conjures images in one’s mind of a conductor silently leading an orchestra with his gesticulations. One can only admire his calm, composed presence on the ball, and the ease at which he bewilders opponents. Many a player has rushed in to dispossess Ganso, before a sudden blur of motion left empty space as his only companion.
Ganso’s tall, lanky frame and slow gait strikes a sharp contrast with a mind that is full of inventiveness, and has the ability of temporary precognition. His left foot is home to a multifaceted range of passing that has the tools to generate a quick counterattack, control the tempo of the team like a metronome, and unlock a defense with Houdini-esque ease.
Unfortunately for Ganso and Santos, the midfielder has not been at his best on a consistent basis. Knee injuries have plagued the 22-year-old in the past 18 months, and each recovery has seen him have to search diligently to regain his former level. As a result, Ganso’s progression has been severely hampered, and the ironing out of his flaws has occurred at a snail’s pace.
For all his talent, Ganso’s repertoire as a playmaker is still incomplete. He hasn’t yet developed the skill to deal with a pack of opponents using controlled, aggressive marking to smother him. The understanding to efficiently utilize space in this situation has no yet coalesced in his mind. This lack of situational awareness also extends to his passing in some respects. However, that is one of the few areas that he has recently showed some progress.
As a result, Ganso’s progression has been severely hampered, and the ironing out of his flaws has occurred at a snail’s pace.
There is a mental issue that needs to be fixed as well. If the pace of the game is above Ganso’s comfort zone, he’ll disappear for minutes as the game passes him by. He has yet to master the time dilation ability of the player he is often compared to, Juan Roman Riquelme, where both teams have to play to the tempo that he has set. The defensive side of his game also needs a lot of work, although he has intermittently shown an ability to be somewhat useful in this respect when the mood hits him.
Currently, it seems like Ganso will be plying his trade elsewhere very soon after an extended contract dispute with Santos ended on a sour note. A move within Brazil would be preferred; Internacional has been mentioned as a possible destination, but his going to Europe would not be inconceivable. The interest from the likes of Inter Milan, AC Milan, Paris Saint German, and Porto has cooled in recent months, but it is unlikely that several clubs would not be interested in signing the talented youngster.
A player of Ganso’s ilk would be more suited to football in Spain or Italy, but, recently, a rumour linking him to Arsenal has emerged. However, a lack of news on this front in Brazil would suggest that the link is tentative at best. The Emirates Stadium would probably be the best place for Ganso if a move to England were on the table, but even if Ganso had made the progress expected of him, he still would struggle to adapt to European football in general, never mind the rigors of the English game.
As he is at the moment, the most probable result of such a move would be an overly long period of adjustment that would test the patience of fans, and would probably create numerous cracks in the confidence of a player who has yet to consistently display that level of mental fortitude. That’s not to say that Ganso couldn’t eventually adapt, but the likelihood of this outcome would be slim.
Whatever comes to the fore in Ganso’s future in the upcoming weeks and months, there is a feeling that his future is at a crossroads. Taking the wrong path will see one of Brazil’s great talents in recent years become yet another player to fall away from the path on the way to greatness.
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