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Santos continue to punch above their weight

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BBC Sport blog editor | 08:35 UK time, Monday, 9 April 2012

If the Titanic was too big to sink, then Santos FC would be too small to shake the world - flawed logic on both counts.

On 14 April, 1912 - the very day the Titanic hit an iceberg which caused it to sink - Santos were founded, beginning their rise to become one of the most remarkable clubs in football history.

Santos represent a relatively small city, with a population of a little more than 400,000, which grew to prominence as the port through which much of Brazil's coffee was exported. An hour's climb away is the metropolis of Sao Paulo, South America's biggest city, with more than 11 million inhabitants.

Santos are the reigning champions of South America - a title that Corinthians, Sao Paulo's biggest club, are still waiting to win.

Corinthians are the current domestic champions and are a major force. Sao Paulo FC have been Brazil's most consistent club over recent times and another local giant, Palmeiras, have a glorious history of their own.

But, internationally, Santos are probably more famous and glamorous than them all, which is an extraordinary achievement.

The man most responsible for this state of affairs is Pele, who played for the club between 1956 and 1974.

One of football's happy accidents is that the 15-year-old Pele was introduced into a side that already was sensational, with top-class experienced players around him to guide the way.

Neymar is part of Santos' new batch of youngsters coming through the club. Photo: Getty

With such solid foundations, it was not long before the team was built around him.
Santos, Pele and a wonderful supporting cast deserve a mention in any debate about the greatest club side of all time.

Their claims would be greater still had they not opted against playing in the Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League, after 1965.

They won the tournament in 1962 and 1963, and both times went on to win what was then considered the world title, beating the European champions over two legs.In the first of those duels, they thrashed Benfica 5-1 in Lisbon - a performance Pele considers the finest of his career.

There could have been more occasions like that, but financial considerations weighed heavily. Pele and company had to be paid.

At the time there was no money in the Libertadores - this was before the TV age, and travelling costs were excessive. The solution was to travel the world playing lucrative friendlies.

Pele was happy enough with this arrangement because, at the time, Brazil did not select players who were based abroad. He could tour the globe with Santos and still star in the World Cup.

Incredibly, the tournament rarely saw him at his very best. He was still developing in 1958 and past his athletic prime in 1970.

In 1966 he was kicked out of it, and in 1962, which could have been his finest hour (check out his goal against Mexico) he was injured in the second game.

Even so, the World Cup is the source of much of Pele's prestige. At the time it was the biggest stage in the game, where the connoisseur expected to see the highest level of play and the most interesting tactical advances.

Times have changed, but Santos are still punching way above their weight.
Post-Pele there was an inevitable hangover, but in the last decade the club have come roaring back.

Santos have become known for their youth development work, winning the Brazilian title in 2002 with a team spearheaded by the teenage duo of Diego and Robinho. The outstanding Neymar is the star of the current side, supported by playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso.

And now, in Luis Alvaro Ribeiro, they also have an interesting and ambitious club president. Ribeiro likes to think big.

Many thought that Neymar would already have been sold by now. Instead Ribeiro has brought enough sponsors on board to ensure that the player is already earning European-style wages, and is under contract until 2014.

"But," says Ribeiro, "as a dreamer, I like to imagine that in 2014 Neymar will be Olympic champion and will have won a World Cup in Brazil, so he will be fully satisfied and will stay longer."

The problem is this - even if Ribeiro's predictions come true they will not be enough for Neymar to feel entirely satisfied from a professional point of view.

This is no longer Pele's time. In terms of the level of the game, the World Cup is no longer a reference. It has lost out to Europe's Champions League.

The more stubborn nationalistic South Americans complain that the Champions League is only good because of the foreigners who play in it.

The Champions League is where Lionel Messi confronts Didier Drogba, the meeting point of the best from the four corners of the globe. It is where the best players win each others' respect.

Ribeiro, to his credit, argues extensively that Brazilian clubs need to take on European opposition, and wants a break in the calendar for Santos and others to take part in international pre-season tournaments.

This is a step forward - but more in terms of marketing than in football.

There is a world of difference between a pre-season friendly and a competitive match. Ribeiro should know the difference.

He admits that Santos learned "an extraordinary lesson" when they were hammered by Barcelona in the final of the World Club Cup last December. The change in style of the team owes much to what happened that day.

This, perhaps, is the real long-term task of Luis Alvaro Ribeiro and those who follow him - to push for a calendar that gives the top South American sides more chances to take on their European counterparts on a competitive basis, to have more occasions like Pele's masterclass against Benfica in 1962, the undoubted highlight in the first 100 years of Santos FC.

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 2.

    I think Neymar is a class act, but it has all been from what i have heard, not what i have seen.
    Some people do flop in Europe, look at Robinho at Man City? I would love to see him in Europe, but like Pele, would be great to see these top brasil stars in European footy.

  • Comment number 3.

    Nice article as usual Tim. I read recently that Santos have several very outstanding talented young players on the verge of the first team including a certan Jean Carlos Shera. Can you shed light on this and the prospects of these young players in terms of their abilities and their future with Santos? Neymar can't be the only talent otherwise it doesn,t bode well for Brazilian football. Also, is there any truth to the rumor that he has already agreed to join Barca? What about Santos's prospects this year including the Libertadores cup?

  • Comment number 4.

    I desperately want Brazil to hold onto its players. With its economy now bigger than Britains surely they will start to retain their stars. If that happens, the balance of power will no doubt fairly even up I am sure. They may even be able to pinch a few Africans when they are at it.

  • Comment number 5.

    Tim - great stuff (as usual).

    Question: Do you think there is any way in which the football calendar could be standardised globally? It seems to me that this is one way to improve the football experience for players, fans and administrators so that we can synchronise domestic and international football for the benefit of everyone.

    This is a question I would like to see raised and discussed on the R5L World Football phone-in, if Dotun will permit a question by proxy - an innovation on the sub question, perhaps..?

    Anyone wanting more context can get it at kicboy.com/manifesto (#9 - vertically integrated league structures - when I have written it, that is.....)

  • Comment number 6.

    I am very happy to read the history of my team, been post this way. Santos is fantastic or santastic (as we call affectionately). Santos is special and the most important team this country.

  • Comment number 7.

    As an Aston Villa fan, I saw Pele play for Santos at Villa Park in 1972. Villa won the so called 'friendly' 2-1 in front of 54,000. They locked the gates early, and there was an estimated 30,000 locked out of Villa Park. It was a the time of power cuts, abd Villa had purchased a Generator for the Floodlights. I think they had payed Sheffield Wednesday a few days earlier at Hillsborough.

    Great ocassion, seeing one of my favourite players of all time. Best, Pele, and Cruyff - I saw all these brilliant players at Villa Park - no diving, no cheating, players not protected every minute, game flowing, harder to hit ball.....

  • Comment number 8.

    After reading this article I had to laugh at the comment about the Champions League being more important than the World Cup. As good as the Champions League is it will never be as good as the biggest sporting event on the planet.

  • Comment number 9.

    @ #8

    Sorry I agree with Tim, the Champions League offers much more excitement, quality and top players than the World Cup.

    I think that before this modern Champions League format, the World Cup was the pinnacle but that has dissipated somewhat now.

  • Comment number 10.

    craigh, Tim actually said that "In terms of the level of the game, the World Cup is no longer a reference. It has lost out to Europe's Champions League." I'm sure that's true, the best teams and the best football are in the CL, the standard is higher than the World Cup and that's where players want to prove themselves, every season rather than for a few weeks every four years.

    The Australian newspaper, in an editorial by an obvious non-soccer fan, praised Spain for winning the World Cup with "exciting" football. Well, they were the best team, deserved winners, but they were almost never exciting. As an ancient and life-long football fan (I used to deliver Jackie Milburn's newspapers), I found that the Queensland-New South Wales State of Origin game played during the SA World Cup was far more exciting than any of the WC games.

  • Comment number 11.

    Cracking blog as always Tim!

    I'm one of the many who have heard and read (plenty of it from yourself) about the prodigious talents of Neymar but are yet to really see much of him in action. Without an expensive satellite tv package it would seem unlikely that myself and many others will see much more of these young south american talents anywhere than on the international stage. What is the general view of those in south america when there stars leave to join a club in europe? Are they still followed and admired from back home?

    Also, players such as Robino, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo etc, when they do leave to join a european club, always tend to join a spanish, portugese or italian side, why do so few come to the premier league and why do the those that do often fail to live up to their hype?

  • Comment number 12.

    I never want to see Neymar anywhere near the European leagues or in the World Cup unless he gets rid of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1ols38pfWI

    c h e a t

  • Comment number 13.

    The contrast between Santos (a team with proven recent and historical success in the tournament) and Corinthians (a huge team desperate to win it) is fascinating. Having watched the Timao in the two recent games against Cruz Azul, I was given the impression that they are playing the most primitive style of football to try to grind out victories (or draws in some cases). Their two defensive midfielders (both recently capped) had no idea what to do with the ball and the Centre-Halves were content to make 50-yard long balls to nowhere under no pressure.

    This seems to be the opposite approach to that used by Santos, a club whose confidence in playing quick and tidy football may come from the success it has enjoyed in the past, knowing that they can win trophies by playing with this easy-on-the-eye style and not reverting to the brutality that Corinthians are so quick to employ (despite the class of their forward players - Liedson not included).

    Internacional are another side playing some nice stuff, and I wonder if their recent Copa Libertadores title may psychologically have something to do with this in a similar vein.

  • Comment number 14.

    In response to posters (#2 and #12):

    1. Neymar is head and shoulders above Robinho in every aspect of the game--there is no comparison IMO. I was never a fan of Robinho and though he should never start for Brazil.

    2. Neymar dives in Brazil because it is effective to do so; if he did not dive he wouldn't be helping his club as much as he is now. He will not stop diving until he moves abroad.

    Finally, I also think Neymar will only be properly tested when he moves to Europe. As an exercise to the Brazilians here, who are and where do our best defenders play? Thiago Silva, Luiz, etc? Even the 2nd tier defenders are also in Europe. So, for Neymar to play and be tested against our best defenders, not to mention every other top defender he will have to beat in the world cup, he needs to play abroad.

    Messi is tested by top defenders much more often: in training, in derbies, and in the Champions League.

  • Comment number 15.

    @ #12

    It gets boring reading about cheating foreigners when we see the likes of Gerrard, Parker and Rooney rolling about the Premiership turf on a Saturday/Sunday/Monday/Friday Afternoon/Evening.

  • Comment number 16.

    well, this epitomizes, how a seemingly poor country has been able to produce a crop of world class players, and proven ones - not to mention world champions.
    It hurts so much to say this as I'd love to see that in England, but we've only succeeded in failing.

    Maybe it's a matter of time before we finally break the deadlock and become world champions. In the same manner as Spain have done.

  • Comment number 17.

    @12 - Yeah because European (and English) players are whiter than white when it comes to rolling around on the ground to win free-kicks and penalities.

    I think Neymar is smart enough to realise that his antics in Brazil probably won't fly as much in Europe (maybe in La Liga for Real but that's a different topic altogether.) I think playing in Europe might give him a little bit more football intelligence and a different mental approach. Easy to be a big fish in a little pond playing to the home ground, different to be just another overpaid Brazilian in the Champions League. Many have struggled to adapt to that and would much prefer the climate of idolisation and favouritism in Brazil.

    The next few years are crucial in the development of Neymar imo.

    I would love to see him in England but it would be a massively steep learning curve for him. Although he would probably give Ashley Young a good run (or flop) for his money.

  • Comment number 18.

    Surely television ratings should prove that the world cup is footballs biggest stage? My belief is that international football is the hardest format of the game - England's never ending travials and Lionel Messi's mediocre Argentina record should prove this.

  • Comment number 19.

    Happy Birthday Santos (saturday). Nice blog again Tim. As an Estrangeiro, Santos was the logical choice, for me, not just the "Ghost of Pele" as I am often told, but the Youth policy and passing game I so admire.

    No.4 its true but the quality of the Top tear has to change along with the calendar, thta finallies removes the State Championships. Libertadores during a BPL would be better for settled attractive football.

    It may not happen but the "antics" many refer too are a plague on the game in Brazil (as they are elsewhere). With a stronger tear championship, along the lines of the European Calendar, then players may stay longer and certainly would not leave in the middle of the tourney (July) as they sometimes do now.

  • Comment number 20.

    Nav Sandhu, The World Cup is in some sense the biggest stage due to viewing figures and the power of nationalism to generate more intense feelings on the part of football fans. However, it also only captures a 4-6 week run of form, whereas the champions league takes a whole season, thereby better rewarding teams that are consistently the best. In the World Cup the teams competing don't spend long together to develop an understanding and drill tactics etc in the way that club sides do. Economic pressures, as well as other things, mean that a disproportionate number of the world's best players play for a select few European clubs rather than play for clubs in their native South American or African countries. For all these reasons and more, it is not where the highest quality of football is played.

  • Comment number 21.

    Normal service with questions resumes next week - send 'em in to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com.

    I love the World Cup, and wish that things were otherwise, but it seems to me beyond doubt that the standard of play in the Champions League is considerably higher. True, I don't think the Champions League will ever have the same power of representativity as the World Cup - nationalism remains a strong force and people continue to live their lives inside concepts of the nation state....

  • Comment number 22.

    18.
    At 16:30 9th Apr 2012, Nav Sandhu wrote:


    Surely television ratings should prove that the world cup is footballs biggest stage? My belief is that international football is the hardest format of the game - England's never ending travials and Lionel Messi's mediocre Argentina record should prove this.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    For anyone who remembers football pre-1996, international football USED to be the arena where the best players were judged. Pre-Bosman ruling the number of foreigners in European leagues was restricted, there was much less televised football particularly from overseas leagues, and so many of the best South American, African, European talent was only seen, particularly by UK football fans, at World Cup and European Championships. That was another reason why those tournaments possessed a mystique and a certain glamour.

    It's hard to explain to younger football fans, but I think since 1996 the clash of interests between club and international football and the rise of the Champions League has really undermined the international tournaments. It's basically down to a saturation of televised football and global coverage. The first time I saw van Basten was at Euro 88 and he took my breath away, the first time I saw Baggio was at Italia 90 and he scored his wonder goal against Czechoslovakia. You simply don't 'discover' a genuine world class player at a big tournament any more, everyone knows about him ever since his first stepover was uploaded to Youtube. In some ways, I think football has lost something, an innocence and a romanticism about the game and how players emerge on the scene.

  • Comment number 23.

    ... but one of the things that makes the Champions League special is its very lack of global borders. The more hard headed South American nationalists complain that it's only good because of the foreigners.

    To the extent that this is true, it's not a criticism - it's praise. As I wrote above, the Champions League is where Messi meets Drogba, Argentina and the Ivory Coast. Any player who is unable to learn from competing in such circumstances should not be playing the game.

    Tostao makes the point that in order to develop Neymar needs to play against and alongside the best - at the moment there is only one place he can do that - the Champions League. Hence the conclusion of the article - can the Brazilian clubs find a way in to some kind of global competition? If not, they will find it very hard to hold on to their best players, as Santos were able to in the days of Pele.

  • Comment number 24.

    In 1966 he (Pele) was kicked out of it
    ========================
    I think this needs clarification for younger readers.
    Pele wasn't dismissed from the tournament, he was, quite literally, kicked out of it by a cynical Portuguese side who, if they had attempted such a thing today, would have been lucky to have finished the game with 7 players.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    No7 i was there too even as a Blues supporter, i'm not sure about this but wasn't there guest players from the other west midland clubs Blues, Wolves & WBA??
    It was an evening kick off and it was cold so it must have been a winter friendly so there is no reason why South American teams couldn't do the same now against teams knocked out of the League Cup later rounds or knocked out of the 4th rd onwards of the FA Cup.

  • Comment number 27.

    @ 9: your reasoning is flawed, in as much as the World Cup contains most of the best players from the Champions League (if their countries qualified) plus the best from everywhere else. However, I do agree with the basic premise that the CL has ousted the WC as the world's premier football competition.
    By the same token Tim, although the "Baixada Santista" (the connurbation that the municipality of Santos lies at the heart of, containing São Vicente, Guarujá, Bertioga, Praia Grande and Cubatão) must have a total population of around one and a half million, it is still a minnow compared to the Greater São Paulo's 20 million plus.

  • Comment number 28.

    Good blog by Tim, as ever. Santos became a legend due to Pele and co, and, as long as I can remember have punched above their weight, and had that pointed out. Brian Glanvillle did back in the early 70's.........

    What does that really mean though? Until the 1980's plenty of 'smaller' clubs did well, and in the pre-prem days, even while Liverpool dominated, anyone had a chance of winning the title. Even in the prems first season Norwich and Villa were the most realistic challengers over the season. In the games heyday, the likes of Ipswich, Burnley, Derby, and of course Forest, have all won the title on modest budgets and with modest support.

    So what does 'punching above your weight' mean in a football context?

    If it means a small club being successful, well, that wasn't big news until recently. Forest's European success raised a few eyebrows, but then PSV have won the competition with a smaller support base and that caused no ripples at all.....

    One wonders then if we aren't getting our selves caught up in a false perspective of the past.

    In the present, the World cup has been in decline since the 80's so it's hardly down to the CL or post Bosman that's caused that. Those two factors have accelerated a trend, not caused one.

    As for the CL being more a better watch than the WC, well, no, not really. Neither are up to much any more, and national leagues aren't much better either. The massive wages being paid has led to clubs being ever more fearful of seeing their top stars sidelined and, as such, FIFA have responded by making the game less and less physical, resulting in less and less skill being needed. You don't need to beat a man now, just out run him.............

    With less skill, you get less individual 'moment's. You get lighter balls to get more 'spectacular goals'. You get the top teams playing, as Alan Ball once scornfully called it 'keep ball'. You get games where the ref gives out so many cards for innocuous challenges (at which the pundits express ludicrous levels of outrage) it becomes a farce. Worst of all, players falling over at the merest hint of contact, raising questions about whether its worth tackling at all.

    If Santos are producing quality youngsters again, I hope they stay in Brazil. At least that way they might be spared the circus that is modern European football.

  • Comment number 29.

    I watched Flamengo x Vasco on Saturday, and boy I was impressed with the football on show. The pace is so quick, 100 mph all game, quicker than the Premiership. There was skill, Bastos did some wonderful stuff and one of the Vasco players did a Lambreta.

    Flamengo won it at the death. Fernando Prass took out one of the Flamengo players and Ronaldinho calmly stroked it home.

    Vasco were denied a clear penalty when Souza was tripped which led to the angry scenes come full time.

    Awesome game though, love Brazil so much.

  • Comment number 30.

    how can some people say that the champions league be the most important football event more than ( world cup) champions league is a competition which you have to see final 8 teams which have to be the big richiest team on the globe or something went wrong , which are barcelona,real madrid,man united, man city, chelsea,milan, inter milan one or other french or german team. Even if i am not quite right about it, it is a competition of the rich against the pour, only a few teams in all europe so it can't be called a even or fear competion, that's like going to viedo game, i'll pick the best players in a team and i will be unbeatable.
    Now the world cup is the competition that talent will win and that's makes it one of the most import and whatched sport in the planet.

  • Comment number 31.

    Just clocked that my favourite line from the piece got cut (hate it when that happens!)

    At the top, closing the Titanic comparison - "Indeed, a re-release of the best of Santos in 3D would contain images as breathtaking as any the game has produced."

  • Comment number 32.

    29 - Murtini, I fear you were watching the Fla-Vasco game through rose -coloured spectacles. I didn't see much to get excited about - unlike the Vasco players who attacked the ref at the end - and the crowd of 10,000 made it in terms of atmosphere one of the lamest Fla-Vascos I've ever seen.

  • Comment number 33.

    Algumas considerações:
    1)a title that Corinthians, Sao Paulo's biggest club, are still waiting to win.Não é verdade.O referido clube é conhecido mundialmente por "small team".
    2)A liga dos campeões tornou-se atrativa, atualmente, devido ao fenômeno Barcelona.Antes, era apenas uma competição glamourosa,com claros sinais de decadência.
    3)Caso o Brasil vença as olimpíadas e a copa de 2014, Neymar não só ficará no Brasil como poderá ser eleito o melhor jogador do mundo.Será difícil a Fifa não eleger um campeão olímpico e mundial como o melhor do mundo.
    4)Nenhum jogador do mundo jogaria na Europa,a não ser por um motivo:dinheiro.Mas isso está mudando e Neymar é a prova acabada.
    5) Não concordo que a Champions League ofuscou a copa do mundo.A imprensa europeia puxa "a brasa para a sua sardinha"e com razão.É uma maneira de atrair jovens jogadores incautos para o futebol do velho mundo que atravessa uma crise financeira.
    6) O jogo entre Santos e Barcelona não pode servir de parâmetro para comparar o nível do futebol sulamericano e europeu.Esse argumento é falacioso.Foi um único jogo,seria preciso para uma avaliação mais justa pelo menos 3 jogos.
    7) Concluindo:a mída é igual em toda a parte.Falácias são repetidas a exaustão até se tornarem verdades absolutas;mas isso também está mudando.O torcedor atual não se deixa mais levar por frases de efeito,por campanhas do tipo "30 milhões de loucos",pelo canto da sereia da liga dos campeões.

  • Comment number 34.

    33 clearly doesn't like Corinthians, and also see the argument that the Champions League has overtaken the World Cup as a plot from the European media to induce naive foreigners to cross the Atlantic. He also beleieves that only the current level of Barcelona is saving a Champions League in decline - and that if Neymar is voted player of the Olympics and of the World Cup he will have to be chosen by FIFA as player of the year.

    Difficult to see more ways in which he could miss the point.
    Neymar - the individual awards mean little - one of the great virtues of Messi is that he realises this. But - and this is the point - where he is at the moment he cannot play with and alongside the best, which Tostao has surely correctly identified as the key to his development - and we are talking development here, not some individual prize.

    Champions League in decline with Europe's financial problems? Perhaps - but there's another key point here. The top European clubs are global concerns - they have been working for some time on establishing supporter fidelity all over the world, the first step on the way to converting this into revenue. The rest of the world starts at a disadvantage here - and the Brazilian are limited in what they can do about this while they spend months gazing at their own belly buttons in the outdated state championships.

    Can we move towards a calendar where there are more competitive games between teams from Europe and elsewhere? This, I think, is the key question.

  • Comment number 35.

    Excellent article Tim, NEYMAR will be an excellent addition to Real or Barca if he chooses to make the move. The only downfall I see in his game is his tendency to go to ground easily when he could continue to attack the goal with the skill he possesses. I hope it does happen as Spanish games at our disposal over here in the UK

    Http:\\www.worldfootballweekly.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 36.

    It is NOT a question of these talent playing in European Clubs; it is a matter of Copa Libetadores competition being promoted to the TV networks around the world so the fans around the world can see the incredible talent in South America.

    We do not get to see them on our screens in Australia. Why Why Why ?? If the media barons like Murdoch do not buy them, the state networks must do so the show the world these exceptional talents like Messi, Neymar etc etc

  • Comment number 37.

    One advantage Santos had, at least in Brazil, is that it's probably the least hated big club- even it's rivals Palmeiras, Corinthians and São Paulo are more concerned with each other. Back in the 60's, they would pay in Rio in home games, with always around 100,000 people in the crowd.

    Regarding CL x WC- Today the standard of play is higher in the CL, and it's more of an accurate test of quality for lasting 8 months and being played every year.

    That said, the WC still has a power that can't be denied, and great players will be defined by it in many ways. If Messi continues to be as fantastic as he is, but ends up without a great World Cup, when he finishes his career he will be remembered as a genius, yes, but "a genius BUT he never had a great World Cup, or won it". It will always be a negative mark.

  • Comment number 38.

    Santos punching way above their weight? This is debatable. Why just Santos? Corinthians being national champion with the dire team they had is not worthy of them being shown to punch above their weight? Santos have two of the hottest young talents Brazil has produced, Corinthians had to rely on Liedson, Emerson and worst of all Adriano. Practically, their only young star was Willian.

    'In terms of the level of the game, the World Cup is no longer a reference. It has lost out to Europe's Champions League.' - Christ, the World Cup is an INTERNATIONAL competition between NATIONS while the Champion's League is a CONTINENTAL competition between CLUBS. The World Cup will ALWAYS be bigger, better and more popular than the Champion's League. Why? Well with a club team, if you need a striker, for example, you buy one. In the World Cup, if your team does not have a striker, simple, you do not have a striker. It is thrilling to see big strong teams like Italy go out in the group stages in the World Cup, or see the likes of an opening match being a victory for Senegal over reigning champions France. Where can we see such a thing outside of the World Cup? The World Cup is played one match each round, the Champion's League has home and away games, this gives margins for error that the World Cup does not allow. The World Cup played every four years brings more challenges than the yearly Champion's League. If I have to explain such things to a supposed expert there is something wrong.

    'The more stubborn nationalistic South Americans complain that the Champions League is only good because of the foreigners who play in it.' - Lets analyse this, Messi is not European yet Cristiano Ronaldo is. Drogba is not European yet Mata is. Robinho is not European yet Ibrahimovic is. I too think this point is a bit far fetched but it is hardly stubborn to think such a thing considering so many Champion's League players are not European.

    Pre-season tournaments for Brazilian teams? What is the point? The European teams will not take them seriously and if they did, the Brazilians would not stand a chance. Tim has hit the nail on the head when he said that a pre-season tournament is totally different to a competitive game. Arsenal wins the Emirates cup and then concedes 8 goals to Man U in the League. Did Flamengo in 1981 play in some European pre-season friendly? They did pretty well for themselves beating a violent Cobreloa side and this inexperience against European sides did little favour for Liverpool in their massacre against a much superior Flamengo, much better and much more influencial game than Santos X Barcelona.

  • Comment number 39.

    Hello friends, I am Brazilian and I am a supporter of Figueirense FC. To know that there is an average team in Brazil. I'm a fan of English football, and I'm a fan of Chelsea FC. In Brazil the moment the club is Chelsea FC. Hugs. C'mom Chelsea. As for Neymar is an ace, but I agree, has to play in a big club in europe, chi he plays against many weak teams. Follow me on twitter: @ Riqueelias

  • Comment number 40.

    To paraphrase the popular beat-rock combo "Blur", Modern Football is Rubbish.
    @29,32: The referee sent off FIVE Vasco players, two being accused of pushing him, all five of swearing at him. Definite anger management issues at Sao Januario.
    Who runs football in Brazil, seems like it is either Hopeless the Weather Girl or Mr. Angry from Purley!?
    P.S. Imagine Celtic-Rangers or Man U-Man City or Chelsea-Spurs or any other big derby match before a crowd of only ten thousand, nope neither can I!

  • Comment number 41.

    It's sad, in one way, that Pele didn't play in that many competitive matches due to Santos' financial state. That said, he probably wouldn't have played as long as he did as he would probably have received the same treatment he did in 1966 - That was the greatest black mark on that year's competition.

  • Comment number 42.

    The World Cup is more like a nationalistic festival of Football and enjoys the following of the whole country, depending on which countries are playing. Champions League is based on a more professional and business model for the followers of individual teams. The two cannot be compared. Yes the standards are higher in the Champions League, but the players within the teams are playing with each other week in week out. They almost have a telepathic understanding of their positions and movements on the field. The national teams need friendlies and training sessions to build up an understanding and then during big competitions like the Euros, South American champs and World Cup, teams grow together and the further they advance, the more they become a unit and a successful team.

  • Comment number 43.

    Whilst the concept of an Internationally recognised club tournament is interesting and the prospect of a globally accepted fixture list would no doubt lead to an improvement in the quality of leagues outside of Europe, i really don't see this happening anytime soon.

    The unfortunate reality is that football is now a money making exercise, far removed from the entertainment industry it once was (and continues to masquerade itself as now). Moving the fixtures lists around to accomodate more inter-continental tournaments would cause far too much disruption to the money making European leagues. It would almost certainly lead to games being played throughout the summer months too. Where would international fixtures fit in? would be faced with the prospect of International games being played whislt domestic fixtures are still ongoing as with Rugby Union? Players essentially being leased to international teams whilst they continue to fight in the respective leagues? I for one cannot forsee a situation where Sir Alex Ferguson would approve of his international star players jetting off around the world whilst he is forced to play a team of reserve players in a Premiership match.

    Ultimately moving the fixtures around to bring teams from South American, or indeed any other footballing territories, onto a more level competitive and financial playing field with Europe would only be a detriment to the European game. I cannot see a time where UEFA or indeed FIFA (as the European game is very much their flag ship product for marketing around the world) ok'ing such a change to the game.

    Up until the moment South American leagues can rival the fan base of Europe, globally, to attract significant sponsorship and star players they will always be the "also rans". Diamonds in the rough like Neymar will continue to be found, polished and exported to foreign leagues as its the only viable business model for teams to follow. I dare say that the Santos' president, whislt making all the right noises to the contrary, is fully aware that this particular aspect of the game is set to continye for decades into the future (that is until the whole of Europe goes completely bust and nations such as Brazil, India and China have all the money to invest in sport!)

  • Comment number 44.

    If neymar signs for Barca all other teams may aswell give up now. Frightening.

  • Comment number 45.

    @kicboy, they can't make everyone play the same schedule worldwide, do you think the Scandanvian teams will want to play during the winter ? Do you think teams in warmer areas will want to play in blistering heat ? Not viable.

  • Comment number 46.

    Being a Barnsley fan, you'd be forgiven for thinking it'd be hard for me to weave my team into this blog, however I think I can give it a good go!
    1 - That one time we got promotion to the premier league (about 15 years ago now - jeez!), before the start of our season with the big boys, Barnsley hosted Santos for a pre-season friendly. Unfortunately we got our buts whooped. 4-0 if memory serves me right. I've still got the ticket stub. I'll have to research the Santos line-up, which was full of kids, to see how many of those became household names.

    And if that defeat wasn't enough to convince Barnsley fans that the season wasn't going to have a happy ending......

    2 - Continuing the Titanic theme, 1912 was the only year Barnsley ever won the FA Cup. That 1997 Premier league season (people may remember) did include a nice FA Cup run for the super reds (beating Bolton, Spurs and - memorably - Man U before a quarter final defeat to Newcastle). I bought the T-shirt, calling us "The Unsinkable Tyke-Tanics". Of course, it was always going to end in tears!

  • Comment number 47.

    Forget Neymar, Ganso is the man to watch I'd buy him before even thinking of Neymar, pure class.

  • Comment number 48.

    Im interested to see that most people now agree or accept that the Champions League is of a higher standard than the World Cup. Not to sound like I've been living in the dark ages, but would just like to know why this is now the accepted view.

    Granted, there are some quality teams made from multinational superstars, and I would agree the number of quality club teams outnumber the amount of quality national teams at present. However, hasn't this almost always been the case?

    The view that the quality of the champions league is better than the WC seems to be openly accepted on the back of WC 2010 - I don't know whether its down to some players saying this or if viewers and pundits alike genuinely get bored of the games on offer. From a UK point of view, could it be the standard of the CL is better, or more exciting, because British (ok, English mostly) teams have a better chance of progress as opposed to their national teams? Is having a strong league a bigger source of pride than having a strong national team?

  • Comment number 49.

    48 - one of the sources for the view that the Champions League is of a higher standard than the World Cup is the voice of the players.

    It makes sense. National teams used to have 2 advantages - they congregated the best players, who previously were more dispersed in terms of where they played (Tom Finney for Preston, by way of example) - and national teams also used to have time to prepare before big tournaments - not all of them, but Brazil 1970, for example - together for months. So there was quality with time to be wielded into a unit.

    Globalization so often means concentration - the best players snapped up by a handful of clubs. These clubs congregate global quality, and have time to turn it into a team - nowadays, in terms of time to prepare, national teams exist on the crumbs that the club game throws away.

  • Comment number 50.

    I am a big fan of South American football as a whole. The league structures are crazy but make for really interesting seasons. I try not to support teams but I do have a soft spot for CDU San Martin of Peru.
    Q: What is your favourite league and team in south america and why?

  • Comment number 51.

    this is obviously a "who came first, the chicken or the egg" kind of question... or a vicious circle. (dont know if the term vicious circle exists in english... maybe snowball effect?)

    yes, the champions league is THE PLACE to be right now, because all the best players are there.

    so, all the best players go there because other best players are there.

    if SOME of the best players from South America STAY in South America, that will make South American competition have a higher level, and more and more good and some of the best south american players will want to stay home.

    Tim Vickery´s argument that a player should go to Europe because the best competition is there, is the PERFECT argument for that vicious circle to NEVER be broken. It just raises the size of the snow ball.

    With Santos holding Neymar, as well as other brazilian clubs holding their own best players, more and more, more brazilian players will want to stay in Brazil. Hopefully that can happen in other South American countries too, despite the lower wages there.


    Its also important to remember that a player weights in MORE things besides competition or money. Yes, those are important, but we know of many players that are not satisfied in Europe. Living abroad is not easy. Different culture, language, climate.

    Hopefully more european teams follow Barça example and use local players mostly. With a smaller market in Europe, South American clubs will be able to hold up to their good players for more time and a few of the best, raising the quality bar and thus, making even more of the best players want to stay.

  • Comment number 52.

    I have seen lots of comments complaining about "diving". Good point, but let's clarify why some players have to dive sometimes. First of all, lots of talents were missed all around the world because of unnecessary tough challenges, bad defenders and worse referees which are never suspended and still destroying careers.
    The concept of football which I see in Europe is too concerned with physical contact and not with the real skills of a football player. I know contact is part of the game but a broken leg not.
    Also, please don't compare Messi and Neymar. They are completely different Messi is speed Neymar is pure ability.
    As I said Europe is too much concerned with physical preparation. Just take a look in Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Robinho and many other Brazilian players before they go to Europe they were all thin and agile. Now they have the double of the size and don't have that agility anymore.
    It's a shame that people keep supporting violence inside the pitch just because the bad players don't have the capacity to get the ball instead of the player's ankle.
    It's just a matter of applying the rules correctly and use technology in order to identify cheaters and analyze the controversial plays instantaneously.
    Football needs to evolve as other sports did already.

  • Comment number 53.

    I agree that the Champions League probably offers a higher standard of football, but I think the World Cup still offers a greater variety. I don't mean that in the sense of getting to watch rubbish teams in the World Cup [true, but could do that in my home town], but in the sense of seeing something unexpected.

    Alas, that too is probably changing. A bit like when all cars started looking like Ford Sierras due to universal application of better aerodynamics, I suspect that a more homogeneous application of training methods could also make World Cups duller.

    ...Which brings me to my question(s), Tim. How easy is it for a team (or individual players?) to radically change their style after a sound thrashing by Barcelona, as you say Santos did? What lessons do you think others should be learning, and which ones are even trying?

  • Comment number 54.

    The way the game has become more accessible globally has ruined the World Cup and international football in general, although I'm not complaining.

    Back when footage of matches abroad were hard to access I would imagine how great it would've been to see for the first time the likes of Sindelar of Austria revolutionise the centre forward role, Garrincha embarrass defenders with skills and flair never seen before, the interchanging wonders of the Dutch etc. at the World Cup or during international tours.

    It's impossible to get the same joy nowadays cos we see all the top stars on TV at the Champions League or whatever showcasing their skills on a weekly basis (like I said, I'm not complaining). But because we're so used to seeing the stars we get disappointed when they falter in the international scene for whatever reason (see: Messi, C. Ronaldo, Rooney etc.), and consequently the entertainment value of international tournaments go down. Club has definitely climbed above country, priority-wise.

    I'm actually hoping Neymar, Ganso etc stays with Santos until 2014, so that I can finally see what they are all about at the World Cup. As much as I enjoyed watching Ronaldinho, Adriano and Kaka at club level, I was saddened to see them flop at Germany '06. Maybe things could be different with the supposed next great Brazilian.

    Having said all that, we still make new discoveries thanks to the World Cup though when it comes to nations not exactly under the spotlights. How many of you had seen how good Honda and Endo of Japan were before SA '10? Or how much Uruguay had progressed? Champions League is the new biggest prize, but I still look forward to every World Cup and still think it's magical.

  • Comment number 55.

    51 - re breaking the vicious circle - it looks like you didn't read the last line of the piece.
    Quite what the answer is I don't know - the European clubs and their big competition have developed an element of proof against recession by becoming so popular on a global scale. Difficult for outsiders to crash the party. But the way it is now is not necessarily the way it is going to be.

  • Comment number 56.

    @50. I watch Brazil for the big name players, samba football, and technique. I also watch Chilean football as the pace is quick and there's a lot of goals. I also like Mexican football, but that's more North America ha.

  • Comment number 57.

    Errata: In 1962 (in Lisbon) Santos beat Benfica 5-2 not 5-1!

  • Comment number 58.

    Interesting blog again Tim.

    The CL is a better standard than the WC but I so rarely have any emotional attachment to a tournament that is invariably won by a team from one of Europe's Big 5 (or Big 4 if you exclude French teams) that I never usually bother with the CL until the second leg of the SF stage.

    This year the Europa League has imo offered more interest and entertaining games.

    Neymar's 'diving' should fit perfectly into European football leagues where its part of the playing culture now. I have Brazilian friends who like Pele claim that the lad is better than Messi and Maradona but personally I think its far too early for such big claims and until he proves himself in a higher standard in Europe I would doubt it.

    My question though Tim is what exactly did Santos change after they were taken apart by Barca?.

  • Comment number 59.

    I'm not sure I agree with the theory that the CL is better than WC.

    Granted players at clubs spend more time with eachother so have a better understanding, WC generally has the best worldwide players on show!

    I don't buy into this Drogba (Ivory Coast) v Messi (Argentina) in CL nonsense. How can one player determine the nation he plays for? It's more Drogba (Chelsea) v Messi (Barca).

    Plus the competition is much the same in WC as it is in CL. Qualifyers, strong teams breeze through bar the occassional upset. There are normally 3-4 "surprise" teams in the group stages. Smaller teams get hammered, with occassional upset. Usual suspects in teh knockouts. Usual suspects in the finals. Substitute Spain for Barca, Brazil for Real, Italy for Milan, Germany for Bayern etc and you realise that it's all pretty much the same.

    The fact that players like the fabled Messi and Ronaldo also have "poor" tournaments by their own high standards whilst having a goalfest in CL, suggests the competition is higher in WC.

    Likewise, the fact WC is every 4 years means it is harder to win (as football is cyclical, club teams can dominate CL for 3-4 years) but how many teams dominate the successive WCs?

  • Comment number 60.

    Unfortunately it does seem that the World Cup isn't the greatest tournament in the world for players to win. Due to all of the money invested in club football, and teams getting over protective of their players, the world cup can be seen as yet another hassle at the end of the season. I completely disagree with this view though, but it is difficult to judge players ability based on this one 4 year tournament. It's a good place to go talent spotting, but teams shouldn't just splash out on a player who they've never watched before. You will see it after the Euro's this summer - many of the available best players will be picked up and, unfortunately, it is unlikely they will all perform. Players need to be playing week in week out at the top CLUBS to make a name for themselves now.

    http://endtoendfooty.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Comment number 61.

    I think for the average european football fan there needs to be more friendlies set up with south american teams. santos would get a big enough crowd at most grounds in the prem, as would any of the top 6 teams in brazil. i havent seen lucas moura or neymar play, on tv yes but i would like to see something different, european football is good, but a change in pace which the south american teams would bring would be interesting.

  • Comment number 62.

    I agree that the Champions League probably offers a higher standard of football, but I think the World Cup still offers a greater variety.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    That backs my argument that everyone would be far happier to see a world club cup! im not suggesting we get rid of the international world cup, but to introduce a club world cup with the same standards as its international counterpart would open up so many possibilities. the current club world cup is a joke, its not taken serioulsy and winning something like the FA cup would possibly be held in higher regard.

    Tim do you know of any plans or ideas that have ever been brought forward to try to introduce a club world cup on a bigger stage than its currently formatted?

  • Comment number 63.

    Its something of a slight oxymoron to suggest that the champions league contains more top players than the world cup, as surely most (if not all) of the best players of the champions league are also in the World Cup. So there must be extenuating factors between the mediums that cause such drastic reductions in quality between the champions leage and the world cup.

    Ironically I would say it is the afforementioned Champions league that is (partially I may add, along with the now EPIC Europa league) responsible for the decline in quality of the world cups. I think the correlation between the two certainly stacks up.
    The football seasons are now epically long if youre involved in prolonged domestic and european exploits. Its no wonder really that the World Cups are lacklustre, when the best players have already played so many games and travelled so far.
    The champions league should be exactly that.....champions (2nd place teams also AT BEST).
    3rd and 4th places in the Europa. Do you really think finishing 5th and 6th is worthy of such glamour as Europe? It should be about the absolute class sides, not an exercise in how to play as many games as possible bulked up with a load of very average teams, making certain entities loads of dollar.

    Reduce the amount of games in these (now, severeley) watered down European tournaments by reducing teams, free up some space in the calender, which maybe give the Nationals sides a bit more time together, meaning theyre more in tune to playing together impriving the standard (without the exertaion of 12 games too many), and maybe the players will have a bit more to offer in the World Cup.

    As usual, in these things its the lecherous money makers that reduce the quality.

  • Comment number 64.

    Bit off piste sorry, just wanted to latch on to section of the thread regarding the champions league and the now second place world cup

  • Comment number 65.

    62 asks if i know of any plans or proposals for an expanded world club cup - no, which was part of the point of writing the piece

    58 - how have Santos changed? They've incorporated aspects of Barcelona in their play - attempts at agrressive pressing, coupled with a side that exhcnages more passes than it used to, a more ball playing midfield.

  • Comment number 66.

    @ 5 kicboy. Globally standardized?!? Sorry, but with respect; what nonsense! The football calender in other countries is not just in place to mess with the European calender (itself not standardized across europe). These thing develop with respect to their respective regons. For example, the fact that Brazil is in the southern hemisphere and has a summer when we have a winter in the north being taken into account. The only reson for football to have global standardisation is to allow armchair fans the world over the chance to watch games. SO, if you wanted to watch Santos play while you relax of a saturday afternoon, it means they have to play in the middle of the night!! I know that's not exactly what you mean, but you get my point. Why should we in europe expect everyone to march to our tune? The reason Santos and other South American clubs have the style and flavour they do is because they do it their way, not ours. Let them be I say. There's enough talk of globalisation now a days. I don't mean this in respect to your comments at all, but it takes a very small minded individual to imagine that you can standardize anything on this very large and very diverse globe we live on. Globalisation is a term that industry has pushed. Industry has left the world in tatters thanks to it. It would be nice if the same didn't happen to the beautiful game.

  • Comment number 67.

    #49 Tim, perhaps the fact that the great majority of Spain's players play for only two clubs, gives them a huge advantage over the other National Teams. The teamwork aspect is probably more decisive in a short competition such as the WC than the quality of the players.

  • Comment number 68.

    67 - an interesting point about the two teams - though many would argue that the rivalry between them at club level creates a problem for the coach when trying to wield them into a single unit.

    For what it's worth, I tend to the view that more important than this is the fact that most of the players have come up through the youth ranks with the Spanish national team playing with the same, or a similar philosophy. I don't know if you saw the remarks of Andres Sanchez, casting scorn on the achievements of Barcelona - but it is this point of player formation that he doesn't seem to understand - worrying since he is Brazil's director of national teams.

  • Comment number 69.

    @ 67 That is not always going to be a bonus. spain are the world champions right now, thanks to Del Bosque bringing together the Catalans and those from Madrid. Liam Brady made an excellent point on the Irish National TV station's coverage of the Champions' league last week. if there was to be a Barca/ Real final, one or other or those camps will be resentful that the other won. This will cause a fracture to that team spirit the Spanish national team have. The harmony in the Spanish national camp is entirly dependant on whether the Braca players and Real players are getting along.

  • Comment number 70.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 71.

    #67 & Tim - if you look at the UEFA Futsal Euro and FIFA Futsal World Cup you'll find Spain have dominated the Euro one since 1995 winning it 5/8 times, the WC one is Brazil 4 and Spain 2 out of 6 tournaments. Spain have dominated both since 2000. Just wish this was televised more as it's more entertaining.

    I think, like Tim, that having come through the youth ranks playing this style - ala tiki taka - of football is the key to Spain's success, the players can fit in easily where ever they play as it's skill and movement first, It's second nature to them now.

  • Comment number 72.

    I'm not so sure that the Champions League is a better standard than the World Cup yet, at least as things stand today. Granted, the current England team would do poorly if entered in the CL, but they do poorly in international football as well. Germany, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Holland would all fancy their chances of doing well in theory, even if it were magically possible to duplicate players. But the trend is definitely towards the CL overtaking, in standards and in overall appeal.

    I do think international football needs an overhaul. The World Cup is a great event, and the Euros are exciting and very competitive. But the 2 years in between each tournament are utterly, utterly unappealing, with very few competitive matches between evenly-matched teams, and friendlies that are little more than training exercises in front of paying (ripped-off) crowds. Entire generations of international teams pass without playing each other in meaningful games. UEFA and FIFA need to get international teams playing more games against opponents of their own calibre and standard to ignite competition between teams and excitement among supporters. That way international football could compete commercially with the likes of Champions League.

    Similarly, it would be fantastic if club sides from around the world could be brought together in real competitions more often. Only by testing each against the other can you really decide who the best teams are, and in turn to raise the overall standard. The earlier point about the CL creating a vicious circle is entirely valid - it's in danger of gobbling up every other football competition in terms of money and interest. FIFA shouldn't allow it to continue, and unless they want to see the back of international football neither should UEFA.

  • Comment number 73.

    Hmm it seems some people are getting confused between quality and predictability. The Champions' league is of much greater quality and the difference is if you come from a country with a poor national team, you can still make your mark, a la Ryan Giggs. The problem now is that the clubs with money are almost always the ones that are in the final stages.
    I like the world cup because you see the marriage of semi-pro with multi-millionaires (Togo 2006). It's not as high a quality, but it makes a great tournament because of this, coupled with the fact that these superstars are now playing for their country, not their pay master. After the last 3 world cups, it's hard to argue that it's of equal quality though.

  • Comment number 74.

    Articles like these are always a little confusing and i am never quite sure what to make of them.
    On the on hand there seems to be this general believe that if a player is South American, and here especially Brazilian and if he has made has made a little name for himself, he must be brilliant and the next world beater i.e Pele. Everybody seems to forget that for every South American ( incl. Brazilian ) that succeeds there are a dozen that have fallen by the wayside, disregarding what their reputation was beforehand and a few of lesser reputations i.e Lucio have succeeded.
    So here we have another article, this time about Santos, telling us how good they and Neymar are and how he is going to be the next world beater.
    Ok, i must admit i don't see a lot of the Brazilian league and the only time i saw Neymar was when Brazil lost 3 -2 to Germany and i can state that on the basis of that performance neither he nor the other players gave such a great impression and none of them appeared like potential world beaters. Hence i say wait until he has played in Europe disregarding whether he plays in Spain, the UK or elsewhere and see how he 8or they if you include Ganso) fare
    Personally i think that Europe currently produces just as many if not more talents with greater potential only there isn't that S American hype about them. I was much more impressed with what i saw in the recent match between Germany and France and the potential one saw there ( both on the German and the French side) and i think the EPL would be better advised to look in Europe than follow the S American trend ( a Messi is a once in a decade appearance and i think his successor will be found somewhere else but not in South America)

 

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