Santos went into the penultimate round of the Campeonato Paulista’s regular season having not only secured a berth in the semi-finals, but also guaranteed themselves first place. It was an achievement indebted to Robinho and especially Neymar, who has added prolificacy to the pace and exceptional trickery with which he exploded on to the scene last year.
But despite being on target nine times prior to Sunday’s trip to Sao Caetano, the 17-year-old sensation had yet to score with his head. Nor had Robinho.
Dissatisfied, Santos coach Dorival Junior vowed to pay for a squad barbecue if either of his two revered forwards arrested that statistic in Round 18. The 47-year-old now has a cheque to write.
He told us that if we managed it against Sao Caetano, he’d pay for a barbecue. As soon as I scored I reminded him!
Indeed, with the scoreboard reading 1-1 midway through the second half, Neymar launched himself at an Andre cross and powered home a six-yard diving header. The No17, who has been linked with Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Manchester United and Chelsea, among others, immediately sprinted towards his coach.
“In training during the week, he moaned that neither myself or Robinho had scored a header,” explained Neymar. “He told us that if we managed it against Sao Caetano, he’d pay for a barbecue. As soon as I scored I reminded him! When we have an extended break, I’ll take advantage.”
Robinho, who scored Santos’s final goal in the 3-1 win, added: “He (Dorival Junior) has to pay up! We returned home with headaches after training so hard during the week!
“I was desperate to get a header, but Neymar managed it with a great goal. He moaned that we don’t score with our head, so now he has to pay for a barbecue. Not now but at the end of the competition.”
Santos have won 14, drawn two and lost two of their games in this season’s Campeonato Paulista, scoring 57 goals – or 3.17 per game – in the process. Santo Andre have also booked their spot in the play-offs, while Gremio-SP, Sao Paulo, Corinthians and Portuguesa will fight it out for the remaining two places on Wednesday.