Santos last shone on the global stage during Pele’s heyday in the 1960s. O Rei was an inspirational presence in a side that harvested trophy after trophy during the decade, among them back-to-back Copa Libertadores titles in 1962 and 1963. On both occasions O Peixe went on to lift the Intercontinental Cup with wins over Eusebio’s Benfica and then Gianni Rivera’s Milan.
Nearly 50 years after those distant glory days a bright new era is dawning for Santos. Combining to perfection with experienced hands such as Leo and Elano, a hungry new breed spearheaded by Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso has taken a proud club back to the pinnacle of Latin American football. Fresh from hoisting the Sao Paulo state championship and Brazilian Cup in 2010, Santos took state honours again this year before claiming the club’s third Copa Libertadores with victory over Penarol in the final. The goal now is to rule the world again in Japan.
With Neymar and Ganso still only 22, Santos’ future is inextricably linked to its present. Courted by some of Europe’s biggest clubs, the hugely talented duo are nevertheless focused on bringing the FIFA Club World Cup back to Brazil. Coming up behind them are yet more exciting young talents, many of whom have already made their way into the national youth teams and are poised to cement the club’s recent re-emergence.
Facts and figures
Araken, Jair da Rosa Pinto, Pagao, Gilmar dos Santos Neves, Zito, Pele, Coutinho, Pepe, Edu, Clodoaldo, Carlos Alberto Torres, Ramos Delgado, Rodolfo Rodriguez, Serginho Chulapa, Pita, Giovanni, Diego, Robinho.
Neymar, Paulo Henrique Ganso, Elano, Leo, Borges.
Though Santos won the 2010 Brazilian Cup thanks to some emphatic victories, their progress towards Copa Libertadores title number three was far less smooth. Starting their campaign under a cloud following the departure of coach Adilson Batista and his replacement by Muricy Ramalho, O Peixe eventually took second place behind Cerro Porteno of Paraguay in Group 5, reaching the knockout phase with only the ninth-best record of the 16 qualifiers.
Nor was their progress through the latter stages of the competition much easier, a solitary goal separating them from their opponents in each of their four aggregate wins from the last 16 through to the final. After disposing of Mexico’s America 1-0 over two legs, they then squeezed past Colombia’s Once Caldas 2-1, Cerro Porteno 4-3, and Uruguayan giants Penarol 2-1 in the final.
The numbers game
11 - The number of matches Muricy Ramalho’s side went unbeaten from the second half of the group phase all the way through to the final, an indication of their ability to churn out results when necessary.