Can Resurgent Ganso Play Important Role in Brazil Future?

Christopher AtkinsContributor IAugust 28, 2014

Paulo Henrique Ganso of Brazil's Sao Paulo FC, center, celebrates with teammates Lucas Evangelista, left, and Aloisio after scoring against Brazil's Ponte Preta at a Copa Sudamericana soccer match in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Andre Penner/Associated Press

The rise and fall of Ganso had been one of the most intriguing storylines in Brazilian football over the past few years. An elegant No. 10 of undoubted technical quality, his dramatic loss of form and subsequent sale from Santos to Sao Paulo came as a major shock given his early rapid rise to the top of the domestic game.

For so long it had been a case of Neymar and Ganso as a double act, with the two "Meninos da Vila" from Santos identified as being key to the future of the Brazil national side.

While the former went on to star at the 2014 World Cup, sealing his status among the very best players on the planet, the latter spent his summer pondering over an improved start to the domestic season.

There had been false dawns and patches of good form before and the No. 10's state championship form prior to April had done little to suggest this was anything more than a blip in his rapid downward spiral.

Jorge Araujo/Associated Press

Now, after 17 appearances in the Brasileirao this campaign, his resurgence has to be treated seriously.

What has helped the now Sao Paulo star is that his side have hit a purple patch in form, unbeaten in their last five following two defeats almost immediately after the World Cup.

The closest challengers to leaders Cruzeiro—albeit seven points in arrears—the Paulista giants have spent significant amounts of money to amass a squad which would be the envy of many European sides. In Alexandre Pato, Alan Kardec, Kaka and Ganso, they have a forward line that has almost immediately clicked into gear as a unit.

Kaka's arrival has been key to the side's upturn, with the side winning all four games in which he has featured since an opening defeat to Goias. In the five games since he arrived, Ganso has contributed two goals and three assists.

Suddenly, the 24-year-old appears an entirely different proposition. With confidence flowing through his veins once more, he is a constant threat and is beginning to control games with authority once more.

In 17 games, he has scored four goals and provided seven assists, per statistics. There are few more dangerous players in the league at present, and his confidence was visible in his sensational goal scored against Santos on the weekend.

At his best with Santos, Ganso was both a creator and an organiser. He was able to dictate play from the No. 10 position and bring the best out of the likes of Robinho, Neymar and Andre around him.

Two major injuries, though, took their toll, and his form suffered in the wake of a triumphant return in helping Santos win the 2011 Copa Libertadores. Once seen as a shoo-in for the Olympic Games the following year, with manager Mano Menezes having touted him as key to his plans with the selecao, he was dropped following one abject display too many. Oscar was now the golden boy of Brazil's attacking midfield.

Even when at the top of his game, there were doubts as to Ganso's long-term viability as a No. 10 in European football or at the international level. He is heavily biased to his left foot and lacks speed. If not at his best, he can look ponderous.

Ganso, though, has been reluctant to consider a role deeper in the midfield where his passing range could perhaps be used to full effect anywhere in world football. Even when benched at Sao Paulo and seemingly set to disappoint once more, he has remained convinced that his future was in a central-playmaking berth.

His faith has perhaps now been justified. Following his sustained good form, there are now mutterings of a potential return to the Brazil setup and a perfect opportunity to stake a claim under new head coach Dunga.

Of course, a sustained run of form over the course of an entire season or more is required before Ganso will be considered a viable option for European sides. The Brazil national team, too, will likely demand a similar demonstration of ability before they consider him for inclusion given the alternatives available.

Few, though, have expected Ganso to return to quite the form he is in at the present time and, while he has a long way to go, he is too young to write off in the long run regarding a role in the national team.

If he can stay fit and continue to demonstrate the talents that once saw him regarded as a leading young talent anywhere in world football, Brazil will be delighted to welcome him back into the fray.

With his languid style of play harking back to the great playmakers of years gone by, Ganso will always have his supporters in Brazil. Keep performing to such standards, and they will quickly become more vocal in their backing.

The onus is now on Ganso to prove that he is back where he belongs.