Pele edges Eusebio as Santos defend title

Santos players Mengalvio, Coutinho, and Pele in 1957
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A brief history...

Rarely in the history of football can a team have been so closely associated with one player as Santos FC are with Pelé. For two decades, Santos and 'O Rei' weaved dreams together as the incomparable forward demonstrated his insolent mastery of the game across the planet.

Their legend is all the more staggering considering that Santos FC represent a town of less than half a million inhabitants, 70km to the south-east of the all-consuming megalopolis of Sao Paulo.

The club were officially born at 11.33pm on 14 April 1912 upon the instigation of three players from modest club Americanos. The founding members originally put forward three possible names for the new outfit: Africa Futebol Clube, Asociaçao Esportiva Brasil and Concordia Futebol Clube. Santos FC eventually won the day, though, and the team disputed their first official match on 22 June 1912, which they won thanks to goals from Ferramenta and Ribeiro.

Santos joined the Campeonato Paulista (Paulista championship) four years later, but it was only with the arrival of Pelé in 1955 that the club began to grab headlines. For the next 15 years, they were not only untouchable but seemingly insatiable, giving the impression that no amount of goals would ever quench their thirst for more.

The titles began to pile up without the players' sheer enjoyment ever fading, and the biggest stars of the day seized the chance to join in the fun alongside Pelé. Zito, Dorval, Jaïr, Coutinho, Ze Carlos, Pepe, Toninho, Edu, Clodoaldo and Brazil captain Carlos Alberto all rallied to the cause as Santos became the 'Harlem Globe Trotters' of football.

In fact, when Brazil faced Germany on 5 May 1963 no fewer than eight of the Seleçao's starting eleven were Santos players (Gilmar, Lima, Zito, Mengalvio, Dorval, Coutinho, Pelé and Pepe).

Even after Pelé retired, the club's unique delight in scoring continued unabated, and on 20 January 1998 they became the first team in football history to pass the 10,000-goal mark. But Santos only really returned to the forefront again in 2002, when they collected another Brazilian title thanks to a teenager who brought memories of Pelé flooding back. Short, fragile and only 17 years of age, Robinho was already the soul of the team. Unlike Pelé, though, he left Santos in 2005 to join one of the giants of European football, Real Madrid.

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