The Great Legacy of Santos FC


Pele's Santos

The story of Santos will always be inextricably linked and defined by Pele. This is perhaps inevitable, any club would be defined by a player widely recognised to be one of the best footballers of all time. However even before Pele Santos were a reasonably successful club, having won the Brazilian state championship in 1935 and 1955. The clubs trajectory was completely altered though in 1956, when Valdemar de Brito invited a mere 15 year old named Pele to sign for the club. The rest, as they say, is history. From the Brazilian culture of poverty and street soccer (he couldn’t afford boots or a ball, so played barefoot with a stuffed sock), Pele rose to the pinnacle of the worlds game. In twenty years at Santos, Pele scored a frankly ridiculous 1087 goals in 1120 matches.

While Pele was the standout performer he was part of an incredibly talented team, with a defensive base of World Cup winning goalkeeper Gilmar and defenders Mauro and Zito. Going forward they had an outside left with a ferocious shot in Pepe and the mercurial talents of Dorval on the right. Up front to partner Pele was his so called ‘twin’ Coutinho, and they developed an almost telepathic relationship on the pitch. This team played some truly magical football, attacking with great numbers with wonderful interplay and outstanding individuals. Such was the global popularity of the team they travelled all over the world playing friendlies, enthralling supporters everywhere they played.

During these golden years for the club won the Intercontinental cup twice, the Copa Libertados twice, six national championships and thirteen state championships. Peixe has never reached the staggering heights of the sixties again, but is still a prominent force in Brazilian football, especially in youth development. This is due to the Youth Division Department which is at the forefront of modern youth development techniques. The club has over 100 youngsters on its books and they have some incredible facilities such as a top class gym similar to the first teams and the Centre of Performance Development to Soccer.

Robinho, Neymar and Ganso, The new Samba boys

The youth teams are famous globally, often invited to international youth tournaments such as the Turin tournament which was won by Santos U 20′s. The ethos of youth development came to fruition in 2002, when the club turned 90 years old. Santos won the Campeonato Brasileiro (Brazilian Championship) for the seventh time, with the players forming the team nearly all from Santos Youth Divisions. The Meninos da Vila (literally boys from the vila because of their youth) were in the spotlight. All over Brazil Diego and Robinho became a symbol of a joyful and impressive way of playing.

The production line of Santos has been incredible: from the former greats of Pele, Coutinho and Clodoaldo, to modern talents such as Diego, Robinho, Elano, Alex as well as the current stars Ganso and Neymar. The Santos (one now ex-Santos) attacking trident of Robinho-Neymar-Ganso started in Brazil’s recent friendly against the US, with Neymar scoring and all three impressing, perhaps representing the next generation for Brazil.

The two current stars Neymar and Ganso represent much that is good about Santos: developed through the youth teams, prodigiously talented and wonderful to watch. The club has left a great legacy to football and still enjoy success today. In 2010 they won the Copa do Brasil as well as the Campeonato Paulista, which will have brought a smile to the face of one ex-player in particular.

by Ryan Murphy

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One Response to The Great Legacy of Santos FC

  1. Shaun says:

    Many Brazilian clubs in Brazil have youth policies not only Santos and they are not necessarily productibe or wrthy of admiration. Many of them are not there for development but closer to a cattle market or even slavery. Many of these boys come from extreme poor backgrounds with little hope if study or bright future. The only way that mnay of them can escape from poverty is to play football and there are many role models for them to follow who have done the same. After Kaka how many whte middle class/educated players can you see in the Brazilian Championship (and Loco Abreu is Uraguayan).
    Clubs form camps where they take hundreds of the pick of the crop of young players and house them in dormitories in the countryside where the kids have to show how much better they are then the others. It is not youth development more ‘dog eat dog’. Those who are the strongest and make the sacrifice rise up and those who can´t deal with the pressure of leaving home and competing with those kids from the same background and also have no other path to follow, fall by the wayside. The clubs just send them home and they are forgotten.
    Example, Ronaldo used to travel hours to one of these places and was dropped after sometime. He famously threw his boots on a telephone line and thought he would not make it with Flamengo.
    Also today it helps if these boys have a representative, someone who knows the club or clubs and can make some money from a boys talent. This leaves the young boy open to become a pawn in a game of people who are not interested in their development and have them at their mercy unless they won´t even get a start with any club. There are even clubs set up to seem ‘professional’ just to sell players abroad (Ronaldinho´s brother Assis has a famous one) who keep them in their own club at a local or lower level of the Brazilian championship away from the big teams and scouts.
    Development of youth does not exist unless you are already talented like Neymar and Ganso at Santos. They are special and so have had treament as if they were already the best in Brazil. The money that is involved and the need to escape from policy are the main driving forces in Brazilian youth football and there is no developmental ethic as suggested in this article. It is bruttle economics and a sad reflection on football in general which keeps on producing young kids being shipped to Europe to make there representatives money and bring some hope to their poor and dependant familes.
    There is no Legacy of youth devlopment of Santos they ply the same trade in youth talent as everyone else and in the last few years have been lucky to have found some pearls.

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