What has happened to Neymar’s ‘older brother’? Why Ganso failed to become a superstar

After taking so long to make it to Europe, the pairing of mercurial playmaker Ganso and a Sevilla side winning plaudits across the continent under the swashbuckling leadership of Jorge Sampaoli looked a match made in heaven. The marriage, however, has turned sour after just 12 months, meaning another false start for a player whose attitude has constantly betrayed his outrageous talents.

The arrival of the more pragmatic Vincenzo Montella at the Sanchez Pizjuan acted as the final death knell for a move that never quite realised its potential even alongside Sampaoli and his successor, Eduardo Berizzo. Ganso, 28, has not made a single appearance since the Italian walked through the gates of the Liga club, and barring some sort of miracle will be watching from afar once more on Wednesday when Sevilla host Manchester United in their Champions League encounter.

He wants out of the club immediately, as agent Giuseppe Dioguardi recognised publicly at the start of February. “I have proposed the immediate termination [of Ganso’s contract],” Dioguardi stated following a meeting with those in charge at the club.

“I have said that his numbers show the player has what it takes to be a star in Spain, he just needs minutes.”

Nobody who has paid close attention to Ganso’s career from its beginnings as teenage Neymar’s partner in crime at Santos would dispute his talent. At his best the lanky, languid No. 10 is a joy to watch, controlling the tempo of Sevilla’s attack with an insolent flick of the boot or shake of the hips and filling infinite Youtube highlight reels with his tricks.

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Indeed, after countless fitness problems over the years it appeared that at the start of the current season the Brazilian was ready to finally make the breakthrough. Ganso started all five of the Andalucians’ opening Liga fixtures, scoring twice and wowing fans as Sevilla won four and drew one in that period to make a clear statement of their title intentions.

“He is working at a different rhythm, he has made a great effort to break into the team and I am overjoyed with his form,” Berizzo said of his enigmatic talent back in September. It proved a false dawn, however. Ganso then disappeared from the first team for two whole months, and since September has started just two matches and scored once, a dramatic equaliser to peg back Maribor in the Champions League.

Now, with Berizzo gone and Sevilla slowly piecing together a season that had fallen apart towards the end of 2017, Ganso would appear to be wholly surplus to requirements. And there are few takers elsewhere, either; on a recent trip to Portugal Dioguardi offered his client to Porto, Benfica and Sporting, and failed to attract interest from either of the three giants.

Ganso GFX

“Sporting are not involved and have no interest,” club coach Jorge Jesus signalled when asked about the player. “I know him well, like everyone in Brazilian football. He was part of a great team in Santos with Neymar.

“He is creative, strong with set-pieces, but not very intense for European football.” Jesus may have touched on Ganso’s fatal flaw: in a game which favours physical intensity above all else, his lackadaisacal elegance just has no place.

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Standing majestically upright when he takes the field, head perched on the long neck to which he owes his nickname (‘Goose’ in Portuguese), Ganso above all else prides himself on his vision. Now he must use that impeccable sight to take a long, hard look at himself.

Neymar’s ‘big brother’ had it all to be one of the best. But while the current PSG superstar realised that incredible natural ability alone would not be enough to cut it in Europe; he worked arduously on the physical side of the game, putting in the hard yards and making himself an asset first to Barcelona, and now the Ligue 1 leaders.

Ganso has not been able to make the same jump and wed his natural feel for the game with the application necessary to establish himself among the elite. If he does not learn the lesson soon it may be too late, leaving him as one of the clearest cases of wasted potential of the last decade.