Transfer deadline day always throws up unusual and unexpected deals. Yet even by the standards of that most unique of days, the move of former Brazilian prodigy Ganso to Amiens was a surprise.
Amiens are a side whose rise to Ligue 1 was as surprising as it was dramatic, with a 95th-minute strike from Emmanuel Bourgaud winning them promotion to the top flight on the final day of the 2016-17 season following a six-match streak of victories to go up on goal difference.
They had the smallest budget in Ligue 2 when they so stunningly earned promotion, and last season they had the fewest resources among the elite, too. That did not stop them securing survival and this time around they find themselves competing on a level playing field with the majority of their peers.
And with more money comes more pulling power, best exemplified by the capture of one of Neymar’s great friends, albeit only on a loan deal from Sevilla.
Amiens is an unlikely destination for an top-level team, yet at the same time the little town in the north of France could provide an ideal location to resuscitate a career that was once tipped to be stellar yet never quite caught fire.
“In Amiens, there are no other temptations, so players only think about their football,” Bernard Joannin, the president of the club told Le Parisien. “Ganso chose the club for its family side. We really want him to be part of the collective, it’s our DNA. There’ll be no special treatment.”
Lacina Traore learned that during his loan spell at the club from Monaco last season, when he stayed in the modest Hotel Mercure in town.
Life in Sevilla was difficult for the 28-year-old former Santos and Sao Paulo playmaker. Although there were glimpses of quality in his game, the frenzied pace at which the team played did not suit him.
In Amiens, though, where organisation and a strong collective ethos is paramount, he could find the structure in which to rediscover his top level if he is allowed the freedom to do so. Gael Kakuta, the former Chelsea prodigy, thrived at the club in a similar role last season and it is hoped that the eight-time capped Brazil international will be able to do the same.
Certainly, his talent is not in question.
“Technically, he’s one of the best players I’ve ever worked with,” Steven Nzonzi, a team-mate in Sevilla, told Le Parisien. “He’s the Brazilian stereotype epitomised; he can change a game all by himself.
“We shouldn’t underestimate Amiens. It’s a good club that likes to relaunch players, so he will be able to flourish.”
Ganso was a cult figure in Spain and also in Brazil, where untimely injury issues no doubt cost him some of his early momentum in a Santos side that he and Neymar led to Copa Libertadores success.
And his profile has already lifted that of the team from a sleepy area of France, but head coach Christopher Pellisier is eager not to put too much expectation onto his shoulders.
“He’s 28 so he’s not young,” he told RMC. “If he’s at Amiens at that age, it’s because he’s somehow not managed to take the step to the very top teams.
“We made the same bet with Gael Kakuta and we hope that he’ll copy the season that Gael did. It’s a challenge for him and a challenge for us to welcome a player of this level.”
Amiens did what they could to keep Kakuta after his stellar campaign and yet they lost him to Rayo Vallecano, who won the Spanish second division last term.
If Ganso can thrive as they hope he will, the prospects of them keeping hold of such a significant name are even slimmer.