Could winning the Copa Libertadores be the worst thing to happen to Santos in recent years?
The Copa Libertadores is the most desired club title in South America. However, winning it can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is a huge success for the club and fans, who will be ecstatic with the victory, but it also alerts European clubs to their most prized possessions. Santos success in recent years could prove to be painful now as their Brazilian Cup and Paulista Championship victories have meant that many players have achieved almost all they can with the club. In the case of Santos, a number of players have and could now depart this summer.
Ze Eduardo, who struck up a formidable partnership with Neymar this year, has left the Libertadores Champions for Genoa in Italy. He was never prolific for Santos but always put in a good shift for his side. He will surely be missed having only failed to win the Campeonato Brasileiro with Santos. Fellow striker Keirrison who was on loan from Barcelona, has returned to the Catalan club after his loan spell ended. Diogo, who is on loan from Olympiakos may now play a more involved role as the number of players heading for the exits grows.
Jonathan Cicero Moreira has joined Italian giants Inter. The right back has been compared to Maicon and at the age of 25 has plenty of experience and will be hitting his peak in the next few years. Both players played for Cruzeiro and Jonathan has even compared himself to his Brazilian counterpart. With Maicon now 30-years-old, he will provide some excellent tuition to help Jonathan develop into a top class wing back. The attacking full-back did not play a particularly key role in the Copa Libertadores run but his experience will be difficult to replace.
Further to this, two other key players in the club’s Copa Libertadores success, Danilo and Alex Sandro have both joined Porto. Whilst Alex Sandro was only on loan at the club, the 20-year-old would have been a welcomed permanent addition to the squad. Danilo has joined the Portuguese champions for a fee of roughly £11.5 million. A healthy sum for one of the brightest young talents in Brazilian football, who will be participating in the coming FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia. These departures have left the Libertadores champions a little threadbare at the back. Fortunately for Santos Danilo will not join Porto until January, after the World Club Cup.
Santos may have made a mistake in allowing another two promising prospects leave recently. Alan Patrick has recently sealed a move to Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk. The talented attacking midfielder joins what is already a large Brazilian contingent at the club as he looks to make his mark in Europe. Shakhtar may have snagged themselves a bargain, purchasing the player at roughly £3 million. Maikon Leite has also left the club, but unlike Patrick, has stayed in Brazil with Palmeiras. The youngster looked a promising talent but moved on a free transfer as his contract expired. Both players played a part, including scoring goals, on the road to this year’s Copa Libertadores victory.
Ganso and Neymar have been the subject of continual speculation over their futures at the club. Neither really managed to live up to the hype at the recent Copa America, only offering small glimpses of their reported ability. On return from a disappointing Copa America campaign, Neymar declared he would be staying with Santos. It is likely Ganso will stay too, in order to play a part in the clubs first ever appearance at the World Club Cup, but it is only a matter of time until they too move on. After the tournament in Japan, which ends on the 18th of December, and also coincides with the end of the Brazilian season, Santos may find it very hard to hold on to their prized possessions come the January transfer window.
They have brought in Borges from Gremio, loaned Alan Kardec from Benfica, signed Rychely from Santo Andre, bought Ibson from Spartak Moscow and brought Roger from Mirassol too. The signing of Ibson from Spartak Moscow is a good piece of business and will definitely add to an already strong midfield, whilst Borges showed he could score goals in the Libertadores with Gremio this year. Whether these new arrivals match up to the quality of the losses they have suffered is uncertain. Santos must now hope that these new signings can step up to the mark and help maintain the clubs current form. However, with Neymar and Ganso absent due to their selection for the Copa America, Santos suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Palmeiras, with Maikon Leite getting one of the goals!
Brazilian teams often lose their best players as their aspirations for glory take them across the Atlantic. With many players winning the Copa do Brazil, Campeonato Paulista and the Copa Libertadores in a successful 18 months for the club, the only target remaining would be the Serie A title. There is no doubt that they still have a couple of diamonds in the rough in their youth system that will be of fantastic ability, but any would need to primed and readied as soon as possible before even more players depart. Brazilian clubs are used to losing their best players to European clubs, but perhaps not in such rapid succession. The situation must be handled very sensitively if the club hope to maintain their improved stature. Santos must hope that this sudden exodus of talent does not cause them to go backwards after so much progress.
Read more from Tom at his excellent blog Purple Patch