Alexandre Pato and Paulo Henrique Ganso: Brazil’s forgotten world-beaters

With the money and prestige on offer in Europe, it is now commonplace for top South American footballers to really only spend the start and end of their careers in their homeland.

Major European leagues are flooded with Brazilians, but it appears that Sao Paulo FC have two internationals in the prime years that are not living up to lofty expectations.

The Morumbi outfit’s usual starting XI includes the likes of Michel Bastos and Luís Fabiano, who have been to Europe and excelled before returning to South America for their swansongs.

However, given the reputation and ability of both Paulo Henrique Ganso and Alexandre Pato, the fact that they are both 25 and playing in the Brasileiro is something of a surprise.

One of Brazil’s most well-supported and historic teams, Sao Paulo have not won a national title since 2008 and have spent significant money in a bid to end this period without silverware.

This may explain why Ganso and Pato are content to ply their trade with Muricy Ramalho’s men but a couple of years ago the prospect of the duo featuring at club level in their homeland at this stage of their respective careers would have been unthinkable.

Pato has had his time in Europe and with reasonable success.

‘The Duck’ was snapped up by AC Milan after a solitary season with Internacional, moving to Italy as a raw talent at 17.

Over the years at San Siro, Pato’s influence for the Rossoneri grew and he played alongside some of the world’s most distinguished attacking players.

He was introduced slowly in his debut campaign as a teenager, but Pato’s ability became clear in his second season in 2008-09.

The skilful second striker netted 15 Serie A goals that year and followed it up with 12 and 14 respectively in the next two seasons.

During this time Pato was a regular fixture in the Brazil national side and viewed as one of the young stars that would strive to win the World Cup on home soil once 2014 came around.

However, between 2010 and 2013 on the Serie A side’s book, Pato was unable to replicate his previous goalscoring form and started to suffer from debilitating injuries.

Despite going off the boil slightly, his return to Brazil when he signed for Corinthians in a €15 million deal two years ago was a major surprise for most.

Previous to this and with Milan starting to sell their best players as financial circumstances took hold, Pato was heavily linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain to link up with former boss Carlo Ancelotti.

However, the switch fell through as the player turned down a move to the French capital in preference of a San Siro stay.

Pato’s first six months back in Brazil were a raving success, with the star scoring at will, but injuries yet again raised their ugly head and selection difficulties blurred his last half a year at the club.

As a result he has been loaned out to cross-town rivals Sao Paulo, where he played a part in the club finishing second in last year’s national league.

Ganso and Pato playing for BrazilHowever, with competition for places in Ramalho’s starting XI, Pato lost his place in the team towards the end of last season and as such has had to spend prolonged periods on the bench.

Once tipped as a potential future Ballon d’Or winner, Pato’s career has stagnated significantly and at 25 it already looks like his best days are behind him.

Ganso meanwhile didn’t even make it to Europe, despite some of the world’s biggest clubs being linked with blockbuster moves for him at the turn of the decade.

After bursting on the scene at Santos in 2008, the intelligent attacking midfielder was deemed to be the next in a proud legacy of world-beating Brazilian number tens, but this promise fizzled out.

Between 2009 and 2012 Ganso was a star for Santos, playing his part alongside Neymar in the Vila Belmiro side’s Copa Libertadores success in 2011.

He also was an automatic choice for the Seleção, stepping out for Brazil during Mano Menezes time as national selector.

Top teams in Europe were lining up to sign the playmaker at great expense, but instead, after ownership disputes, Ganso followed Santos coach Ramalho to Sao Paulo in an odd move.

Since moving to Morumbi in 2012 he has not made an appearance for the national side, while his former partner-in-crime Neymar has progressed to become one of the best players in the world.

Playing for a team like Barcelona looked to be Ganso’s destiny, but he has been bogged down in recent times in Brazil and now looks a shadow of his former self, while Neymar has flourished for club and country.

Ganso and Pato have a lot of football left to play given that they are both only 25, but their respective careers have not gone according to the illustrious script that was being written a number of years ago.

One or both may still end up in Europe in the future but for the time being their cases seem like stories of missed opportunity and, to some degree, wasted talent.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
Stay updated by email

Enter your email address to receive our articles by email: