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Santástico – Ep 0: The hunt for the next Neymar

Perhaps England is the country most associated with football, the country where the modern game began and the home of the world’s best league, the Premier League. But no country in the world ties their football more closely knit to their sense of self-worth than Brazil. The country lives and dies for their football. Their local club, their national team “Selecão” and their stars. It’s almost like football is in their souls. Why is that?

Ginga and the beautiful game

The simple answer to this is Ginga. Perhaps you’re familiar with the term, but more likely you are like me, looking like question mark. Ginga? What? Ginga is originally the fundamental footwork of the capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art, combining elements of acrobatics, dance and music.

The triangular motion of the Ginga

The term Ginga has also been transferred to the field of football and was early on used to describe the acrobatic, free-flowing type of footballing art, displayed by Pélé and his likes (if there were any!?)

“Ginga, it’s in our blood, it’s a gift given by God especially to Brazilians who play football and learn to dance from an early age. I think Brazilians are given Ginga when they’re born and continue to improve it through childhood.”  

Ronaldo 

The individual style of Ginga goes hand in hand with the Brazilian opinion on how to properly play the game of football. The beautiful game, or “o jogo bonito” is a term often used to describe the attacking style of play employed by many Brazilian national teams through the years. This way of playing football, almost completely care free, where the near impossible is made to look easy, is often held in even higher regard than the actual results themselves. The Brazilian World Cup team of 1982, knocked out in the quarter final, is in Brazil by many considered a better team than the gold medal winning team of 1994, simply because they played a more appealing version of the beautiful game.

The great Ginga duo

So, by now you might be wondering where I’m actually going with this, if you’ve managed to keep up your interest this far that is. Well, stay with me for just a little longer and I’ll try to tie any lose ends together. The original footballer personifying Ginga and o jogo bonito Pélé and the modern player closest in comparison, Neymar, have two things in common (except for the Ginga):

  1. They are considered two of the best Brazilian footballers of all times
  2. They both came from the Santos Youth Academy

My new series is based around these two common denominators, in an attempt to make this duo into a trio. This series is a bit different compared to what both I and other creators usually do. It’s not primarily about silverware or squad building or necessarily creating a great team. The main aim of this series is to develop a player fantastic enough to be compared to the two Brazilian legends above, a new Pélé or Neymar.

Creating a Brazilian superstar

To make this happen we need to lay down a bit of a foundation. First of all, we need a club. The choice is obvious, of course Santos FC will be our club, fitting our narrative of our new player walking in the footsteps of Pélé and Neymar. When looking at the facilities a few things pose a challenge for us.

The club – Santos FC

The first thing being the stadium, with a 17923 capacity Vila Belmiro is only 18th in capacity in the Brazilian top division. This will of course restrict finances, at least early on. Compared to the 78000 seater Maracaña or the 75000 seater Mineirão, the Santos home stadium Vila Belmiro is tiny, and will naturally bring in a lot less attendance money per game. Another challenge is the Youth Facilities, which are “only” Good. This is decent but not good enough, considering the fact that we want to develop a world class player, the brightest shining star of his generation. That diamond is unlikely to come through an average Academy, even though it’s not impossible. We’ll certainly increase our chances by improving the Youth Facilities though, won’t we?

Secondly, we need to create a manager to nurture our future talent.

The manager – MikaelinhoFM

Since this series doesn’t claim to be any sort of representation of reality, the sky is the limit as far as manager attributes are concerned. We want a manager best equipped to develop talents. Therefore I’ve given our manager the best possible coaching badges and highest level of playing experience possible. With this setup we maximise the attribute points which are distributed in the above fashion. Mental attributes are most likely important in identifying and nurturing the next world superstar, which means that I’ve maxed out all of these, all except for Adaptability. We won’t go anywhere, this is a one club save, so Adaptability is just a waste of precious points, let’s spend the remaining on the Coaching Attributes instead! When looking at them, Working With Youngsters seem like an obvious first choice to max out. Coupled with amazing Attacking and Technical training we give our manager the perfect tools to develop a young talent into a superstar! Defending, Fitness and Goalkeeping training seem like a pure waste of points, since we’re trying to find the next Neymar, not the next Roberto Carlos!

So, with the club and manager down we need to decide how to measure how good our player needs to be in order to be considered the same level as Pélé and Neymar.

Ginga in Football Manager

To determine what sort of level our player has to reach in order to call this challenge a success, we better start by looking at the player we’re comparing against.

Since Neymar is the current footballer that is said to best represent Ginga, let’s take what we know of Ginga and compare it to what actually makes Neymar stand out. Ginga is dancing, it’s rhythm, it’s tricks. It’s the flow that Brazilians apparently are born with, if we’re to believe Ronaldo. Highlighted above are Neymar‘s best attributes; Dribbling, Technique, Flair, Acceleration and Agility. These will be the five attributes defining the Ginga and gives Neymar a combined Ginga rating of 96!

So we need to develop a player with a lot of Ginga, but that isn’t enough. Numerous are the players that have been great individually, but never achieved much. Let’s look at what Neymar and Pélé achieved in their careers to get a feel for what we’re up against in that department!

Neymar has more than a couple of years left to play, so this comparison won’t be 100% accurate, but we still get a good picture that these are two extraordinary players. Pélé has scored the most goals ever for Santos FC, in a time when the Santos team was probably one of the best teams in the world. His stint abroad came as his career was more or less over and took place in USA, which means that we’ll never know what he would have achieved if playing in Europe. His mark on international football was not insignificant though, au contraire. He led Brazil to three World Cup titles, a truly remarkable feat! Neymar on the other hand, “only” played 200 games for Santos before moving to Europe, where he’s made his biggest mark by scoring for fun both in Spain and France and winning numerous titles. He has also had an international career – numbers wise – comparable to Péle, with 60 goals in just under 100 caps. He is predicted to become the best goalscorer ever for the Selecão, but he’s yet to lead the national team to any real silverware.

Apparently, besides oozing with Ginga, our player needs to score goals and win trophies as well, preferably both for club and country, in order to join the duo above!

Summary

This won’t be easy in any shape or form, but how much fun is an easy challenge? If you still haven’t figured out what this save is about I’ll spell it out for you.

Aim
Create (identify, sign, nurture, develop and eventually sell) the third great Brazilian player after Pélé and Neymar (I know this is a serious stretch of reality, but the narrative works much better if I simply ignore all the great non-Santos Brazilians…Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Garrincha etc)

Rules – for a player to be considered equal to Neymar and Pélé he MUST:
-Join Santos at age 18 at the latest
-Score 100 goals for Santos before moving on to another club
-Play 90 caps for Brazil, score at least 50 goals AND win the World Cup
-Win at least one domestic title abroad
-Reach a Ginga rating (Dribbling + Technique + Flair + Acceleration + Agility) of at least 90

So, this was a fairly short introduction to my new series. I really don’t know where this’ll take us yet. I haven’t pressed “continue” once yet in the new save! In the next episode we’ll look at facilities and staff at Santos FC and look through the squad to find out if there are any hidden gems there we can start turning into the next Neymar!

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