Sevilla should remain one of the most exciting sides in Europe this season after securing the services of not one, but two midfield playmakers who have been described as having ‘the characteristics of Zinedine Zidane’.
The Europa League champions moved to capture Brazilian No.10 Ganso from Sao Paolo, and Argentina-born Italian attacking midfielder Franco Vazquez from Palermo, offsetting the team’s loss of midfield lynchpins Grzegorz Krychowiak and Ever Banega, as well as coach Unai Emery.
Sevilla’s new Argentine manager, Jorge Sampaoli, is now charged with blending the South American playmaking pair into a team that will be expected to build on its Europa League successes by becoming competitive in the Champions League and La Liga.
Sevilla’s transfer master, Director of Football, Monchi, is well versed in plucking relative unknowns from the South American market and turning them into household names, but it would be outlandish to claim Ganso as someone picked from obscurity.
The former Santos prodigy formed an exciting partnership with Neymar back in 2010 as the pair broke through at Pele’s former club, leading them to a Libertadores Cup win amongst other silverware.
At the time, Ganso was hailed as heir to the fabled Brazil number 10 shirt – a throwback to their traditional playmakers of the past, with Neymar labelling his friend a “left-footed Zidane” due to his languid yet graceful technique and creativity.
Both were proclaimed to be on similar trajectories however injuries, then a series of contract disagreements stalled Ganso’s progression, whilst Neymar went on to somewhat fulfil his promise.
Sao Paulo moved to take advantage of the falling out between club and player in 2012, despite consistent links with Italy’s Serie A and AC Milan. After a slow start and a battle with Jadson for the playmaker role, Ganso began to slowly assert himself into the side and win over the sceptics – culminating in a Copa Sul Americana victory and a recent run to the Copa Libertadores semi-finals.
As his stock has risen so much so again, and with 24 goals and 49 assists to go with his 221 appearances for Sao Paulo, perhaps the player himself felt a move to Europe was now or never; to take advantage of the second chance he had worked so hard to achieve, stating:
I would like to thank Sao Paulo for everything the club has done for me. Sao Paulo will forever have a place in my heart. But I think the time was right to make the move to Europe.
Sao Paulo changed my life. A lot of people used to say that I was an ex-football player, but thanks to this club, I could play my football with joy. I don’t even know what to say – just “thank you”.
So, the Goose has finally migrated to Europe where he’ll be joined by Franco Vazquez – another who’s been expected to make the step up for quite some time.
Hailing from South America’s other powerhouse nation, the teenage Vazquez was not on the same scouting radar as “prodigies” Ganso and Neymar, though there was a curious coincidence of what was to come for the Argentine whilst playing in – and winning – a regional youth match for Belgrano against cross-town rivals Talleres.
Vazquez came up against Javier Pastore, the playmaker he would go on to replace at Palermo after his big money move to PSG. Nicknamed El Mudo (The Mute) due to his shy demeanour, Vazquez originally had difficulty filling Pastore’s elegant boots and was shipped out to Rayo Vallecano in Spain on loan, where he also failed to win a regular role in the team.
After his recall, it took a change of coach, and role, at Palermo before his true potential began to be observed. After helping secure promotion to Serie A, Vazquez formed a devastating attacking partnership with fellow Argentine Paulo Dybala, serving the forward with countless assists whilst chipping in with some spectacular strikes of his own.
The form led then Azzurri boss Antonio Conte to cap the player twice for Italy – Vazquez’s mother’s country of birth – whilst former national team coach Marcelo Lippi stated:
Vazquez is a talent, he has quality. I still haven’t quite figured out his true role, but he has the characteristics of Zidane – a playmaker with technique to spare.
AC Milan and Juventus were tipped to sign Vazquez this summer but Sevilla swooped in with €15m after the player made it known he was ready for a change.
Vazquez cites Number 10 legend Juan Roman Riquelme as one of his major influences growing up, and the former Boca star certainly flourished in Spain with the stylish Villarreal – a team that played to the tune of a South American beat at the time. South American stars led by a South American coach.
With Ganso and Vazquez now conducting the attack, Sevilla hope this new style of blending Flamenco, Samba and Tango will lead the rest of Spain, and Europe, a merry dance.