Just who is this Paulo Henrique Chagas de Lima?

With the Copa America under way and many rumours gathering about an imminent move to a European giant for yet another Brazilian star who wears the number 10 shirt, we answer the question on a lot of lips…just who is Ganso?

Yes, he is yet another Brazilian tipped to be a world star. Yes, he wears the infamous number 10 shirt of Santos and now Brazil. And yes, the name he is now commonly known by has no relevance to his actual real name. Meet Paulo Henrique Chagas de Lima, sorry the Goose, or Ganso to me and you.

Paulo, sorry Ganso, was born in Ananindeua, Pará on the 12th October 1989. He was spotted by former Brazilian international Giovanni whilst he was a youngster – playing futsal as most Brazilian children do, honing their skills in an attempt to replicate their idols and hopefully make the big time. He joined Tuna Luso, then Paysandu by the age of 15. Not long after his talent began to show he was snapped up by Santos’ youth setup, again on the recommendation of Giovanni in 2005.

By 2007 he had played in Brazil’s under-20 national tournament, where his abilities started to be noticed by a wider audience as youth team experts from around the globe started to take note. The youth team gave a poor showing, losing at the quarter-final stages, however Ganso did more than enough to enhance his reputation and in 2008 he was promoted to the Santos senior squad, armed with a 5-year contract. He made his senior league debut in February that year but only managed 7 games, as he had trouble adapting to the more defensive-minded, burly hustle and bustle of the senior game.

It took a new manager, Dorival Junior, who brought with him a change of playing philosophy, for Ganso to be given another opportunity. This time he didn’t let it slip, making himself indispensible to the club’s style of play in an exciting new attacking 4-3-3 line-up which saw him team-up with fellow youth phenomenon Neymar and earning the famous number 10 shirt. Of course, at Santos the number 10 shirt holds even more significance, as it was made famous by their most favourite son, Pele.

2010 saw Ganso win his first senior silverware, starring alongside Neymar as Santos swept all aside, winning the São Paulo State Championship and Brazilian Cup double. Santos fever gripped Brazil once more as the pair conjured flashbacks to 2002, and their previously successful midfield/forward double-act who had rose through their youth ranks, Diego and Robinho. Momentum gathered as shouts were heard to even involve both Ganso and Neymar in the coming 2010 World Cup squad. Ganso made the backup squad, but Dunga eventually chose to leave him at home, as Brazil endured a lacklustre performance throughout the tournament.

As with his club, a change of manager at national level saw Ganso immediately called up to represent ‘La Selecao’, placing the revered number 10 jersey on his back. Just like at his club, the fit seemed perfect as he starred in his international debut – a friendly versus the USA, a performance so fine that many now consider him an automatic first choice. However, with everything coming together for Ganso disaster struck as he suffered a terrible knee injury that kept him sidelined for 6 months, which left him a major doubt for the Cope America.

Ganso plays the classic number 10 role to perfection at Santos. Staying mostly central, the midfielder involves himself and directs attacking play with his quick-thinking – so much so that it has led to a nickname of ‘the chess player’. Tall (standing at 1.84m/over 6ft) and elegant, he is strong in possession, very gifted technically and has sublime vision- key attributes for any midfield playmaker. These latter two attributes often combine to supply a killer pass to team-mates – Neymar a particular benefactor. Indeed, it is his club and international colleague who has labelled him the ‘left-footed Zidane’. A fine comparison, as his repertoire of tricks also include the ‘roulette’ spin – something that the great Frenchman perfected in busy midfield areas to create space and leave markers trailing.

Ganso returned from injury in June and was able to participate in the Copa Libertadores final, helping Santos secure their third title, and just making the cut to be included in Brazil’s Copa America squad. But there will be question marks regarding his fitness, and whether he can make the step-up in what will be his first senior international tournament.

With many clubs watching, in particular AC Milan who have been tracking Ganso for a while and are rumoured to be ready to secure his signature in the near future, the pressure is on for the latest in a long line of Brazilian number 10 stars.

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