Ganso a thinking fan's Neymar
While the main focus will be on how Neymar shapes up against Lionel Messi if, as expected, Santos play Barcelona in the Club World Cup final on Sunday, some observers will be keener to see how Brazil's other major young hope fares, WRITES SAM GREEN.
For many, Paulo Henrique Ganso is a better player than Neymar, but one who has been touched by ill-fortune. The 22-year-old is far less flashy than the 19-year-old he calls his "little brother".
Ganso does not try many tricks, does not appear in the gossip pages and has as sensible a haircut as you could imagine. His game is more about intelligent use of space, perceptive passing, bringing others into play. A thinking fan's Neymar, it could be said.
However, a knee injury last year sidelined him for six months and related thigh muscle problems have blighted his return in 2011.
Ganso looked set for Europe but the fitness worries and a buy-out clause of €50m have put that dream on hold.
Ganso is not your average footballer. He plans to study medicine when he finishes playing, and enjoys theatre and reading.
"I like to read a little of everything, to learn new words and ideas, to keep up to date and think faster," he says.
The suspicion over his lack of self-expression -- he rarely smiles or celebrates after scoring -- and the medical ambitions bring to mind another Brazil midfielder. Socrates, who died on December 4, was also criticised for not celebrating his goals and was a qualified doctor.
He will discuss his future after Japan and, while it had been thought his exit was inevitable, Neymar's pledge to stay until 2014 could encourage Ganso to follow suit.
First the focus is on setting up the dream tie with Barcelona.
"It will be difficult. But this is a very good opportunity for us to show what we can do," he says. And what of Messi? "We just hope he will not play very well that day." (© Independent News Service)