Santos continue to punch above their weight
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.