Santos’s existing players are currently in Japan, preparing to do their club proud at the FIFA Club World Cup. Back at their Vila Belmiro base, it was the club that was filling one of their former employees with pride.
Yet the man in question is not, as one may assume, one of the countless Brazilians to have pulled on the Peixe jersey. He is, by contrast, from the country in which Santos are presently vying to conquer the world.
Kazu Miura, considered Japan’s first superstar footballer, played for the Paulista side as a youngster in 1986. Today, he returned to his former office to receive a tribute. Met by former coach Pepe, the prolific left-winger who helped Santos win successive Intercontinal Cups in 1962 and ’63, Kazu was presented with a No10 jersey, complete with his name on the back, and showed around the club. There, he saw his framed photograph next to one of no less a great than Pele.
The 44-year-old, who still represents Yokohama FC in J.League 2, enthused: “It was a beautiful tribute and I’m very happy, especially to re-encounter Pepe, who I’ve wanted to see again for a long time. It’s been five years since I’ve been here.”
Pepe was likewise pleased to see a man he befriended 25 years ago. “Kazu is an old friend,” said the 76-year-old. “He had the Brazilian style of playing. Even I was surprised that he is still playing.”
Kazu will watch Santos take on the winners of the Kashiwa Reysol-Monterrey quarter-final on television in Brazil, before returning home to Japan to watch the match for third place and the final on 18 December.
Pepe added: "I know that Kazu’s a huge idol in Japan, and this will be really good for Santos in this World Club Cup. O Peixe have everything to win. Our team is very strong and we have a complete player in Neymar. In addition, we have a very capable team with Ganso, Borges, Elano and Arouca among others.”
‘King’ Kazu was in agreement with Santos’ all-time second-highest marksman, who hit 405 goals in 750 games for the club between 1954 and ’69.
The 1993 Asian Footballer of the Year said: “Santos are spoken about a lot in Japan, because of Pele and me playing here. The support for them will be great. Furthermore, they have great players and have everything to win another world title.”