Ganso leaves Santos to play for rival Sao Paulo

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SAO PAULO (AP) -Sao Paulo has signed promising Brazil playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso from rival Brazilian club Santos for a reported $12 million.

The midfielder, one of the top players in Brazilian football in recent years, joined the club on a five-year contract.

The announcement by Sao Paulo on Friday came the day the local transfer window closed, ending several weeks of negotiations between the clubs.

Ganso had already said he was not happy playing for Santos, but the club made it difficult for the transaction to happen because it didn't want him at a rival club. Attempts at an international transfer failed.

"It's a dream come true," Ganso said. "Ever since Sao Paulo showed interest in signing me I wanted to get the deal done. I can't wait to get on the field and pay back for all the effort that the club directors put into this."

The player will be officially introduced to fans before Sao Paulo's home match against Cruzeiro in the Brazilian league on Sunday. He is recovering from a muscle injury on his left thigh and isn't expected to make his debut for a few weeks.

The 22-year-old Ganso teamed up with Neymar to make Santos one of Brazil's most successful clubs in recent years. The team won the Copa Libertadores in 2011 and the Brazilian Cup in 2010, as well as the last three Sao Paulo state championships. Ganso was the most valuable player in the Brazilian Cup.

Santos wanted Ganso to transfer to another Brazilian club, Gremio, but the player dismissed the possibility because he wanted to stay closer to his daughter, born just a few months ago in Sao Paulo. Gremio said this week it had given up on trying to sign Ganso.

In addition to receiving the $12 million, which is the amount of the buyout clause on Ganso's contract, Santos reportedly will also have the right to receive 5 percent of the player's future transfers. The buyout clause would be significantly reduced in March 2013. The clause for an international transfer was ?50 million ($65 million).

Santos fans had been critical of Ganso since he made public his desire to leave the club. Ganso reportedly wanted the same financial conditions and career plan that the club had been offering Neymar in contract negotiations. Last year, there had been rumors of a possible move by Ganso to Inter Milan, but the deal never materialized.

Backed by an investor, Sao Paulo made several offers to Santos, but it kept being rejected until a deal was finally struck late Thursday.

"It was tiring and I was worried, but I never gave up," Ganso said. "Sao Paulo's history, its grandiosity, and its titles made the difference for me in the end."

Sao Paulo is a six-time Brazilian champion and a three-time Copa Libertadores champion. It also has won three world club titles, although it hasn't won anything since 2008.

Ganso, who had not been practicing with Santos while he waited for the negotiations to be finalized, comes to Sao Paulo as a replacement to young Brazil playmaker Lucas, who is joining Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the year.

Ganso has been touted as a key player in the future of Brazilian football, and national team coach Mano Menezes said in the past that he expected Ganso to wear Brazil's No. 10 jersey during the 2014 World Cup at home. But recent injuries and lackluster performances raised doubts on whether Ganso would eventually play up to his potential.

He lost his status as a regular starter in the national team during the London Olympics, when Chelsea's Oscar took over as the team playmaker. Ganso played sparingly and was not summoned again after the tournament. Menezes hinted that he would not call up Ganso again until the player solved his club situation and started playing regularly again.

Ganso was out of action for nearly seven months after needing surgery to repair an injured left knee in 2010. Another knee injury and muscle ailments sidelined him recently, and he has played only 26 matches this year, five in the Brazilian league.

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