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Santástico – Ep 1: A six step strategy

Welcome back to the second episode of my new Santástico series, illogically named episode 1. The reason for this is of course that the first introductory episode was called episode 0, since it takes place before the actual save starts.

In this episode we’ll look at the club facilities and staff and take the first steps towards improvement in these areas. The short term aim is to improve the conditions for talent development as much as possible, with the long term aim of producing the “Next Neymar”.

We’ll use the step-by-step method below as an aid in the process of developing the next Brazilian superstar, and we’ll build this episode around this structure as well.

We’ll go through the list from top to bottom and I’ll try to explain my approach for each step in the process. I hope that this won’t be too hard to follow along!

We’ll start off with what I consider the foundation, the actual identification process. Without the ability to identify talents, the work we do after that may very well be in vane. We can train our players for hours upon hours at the world’s best facilities, but if the players aren’t premium talents they’ll never turn into superstars. You simply can’t turn a piece of shit into gold!

1. Identify

I chose Santos FC for this series for two reasons; the Neymar/Pélé narrative and their renown for being solid talent producers. I had no more knowledge of the squad or club and was therefore happily surprised when I clicked on the “U20s” tab. Santos FC turns out to be a veritable gold mine for a Ginga hunter! This meant that our first identification process was a delightful one, focused on cherry-picking the players with the highest potential. This proved a tougher task than expected, simply down to the fact that there were so many interesting players! It ended up with me picking ten of them!

Caio Mota Ginga Rating 56

Despite looking extremely unhappy being picked, Caio Mota is the first out of our ten initial potential Neymars. He has the lowest Ginga Rating (56) of the bunch and lacks both Technique (9) and Flair (8). He holds enough potential though to get a chance to prove himself! Despite his lack of Flair, he’s actually a decent dribbler (13) and he’s quite fast as well!

Ivonei Ginga Rating 57

The next sad looking boy (what’s up with these guys? Feeling the pressure perhaps?) to get a chance is one year younger Ivonei. He has a better Technique (14), but lacks a bit when it comes to speed instead. He has both the potential and the Determination (16) to improve and will also be given a chance.

Giovanni Ginga Rating 58

Finally a smile! Giovanni needs to work on his Dribbling skills (8) to become the next Neymar. A lot. Besides that he’s pretty well-rounded Ginga wise. He’s a good passer (13) of the ball which is fine, but a Neymar or Pélé must be both more comfortable and more willing to keep the ball for himself! A lot of work is needed, but of course his potential is what gets him on this list. His somewhat Brazilian approach to life (Determination 4) might mean that he’ll become a better dancer and drinker than player though. Time will tell.

Kaio Jorge Ginga Rating 60

Kaio Jorge is probably the youth talent held in highest regard by club and fans, but he’s certainly not top of the Ginga Rating list. Being a more physical type of attacker he needs to improve his technical abilities to avoid ending up as “The new Hulk”. Bags of potential and a nice physical foundation to build on makes him very interesting though!

Lucas Lourenco Ginga Rating 61

Pretty well-rounded when it comes to his Ginga, Lucas Lourenco needs to work on his Dribbling (10) and Flair (10). He doesn’t stand out in any way, but he’ll get the chance to impress and improve.

Allanzinho Ginga Rating 62

This tough guy has the potential to become an attacking threat full of Ginga! His lack of Agility (10) can most likely be fixed through training and the rest of the important attributes are right where we want them to be. The biggest worry here is the combination of him looking like a wannabe thug and a very low Determination (4). Smells like trouble…

Renyer Ginga Rating 63

When it comes to Ginga, Renyer is almost a copy of Allanzinho, with Agility as his weakness. The differences are several though, and all of them are in Renyer‘s favour. He’s three years younger, has a decent Determination (12) and knows how to smile. If you’re gonna become the new Neymar you’ll need to know how to smile, both to the cameras and the ladies!

Gabriel Pirani Ginga Rating 66

Dribbling 13. Technique 13. Flair 13. Agility 13. And Acceleration 14. Apparently we’ve reached the part of the list where the players don’t have any weaknesses Ginga wise! Exciting times! The only issue here is that Gabriel Pirani really doesn’t have any strengths either! At 16 years of age we certainly have the time to fix that and young Gabriel has the potential to improve. A lot!

Marcos Leonardo Ginga Rating 67

Oh, ok. Wow. This is certainly taking it a step further. Marcos Leonardo is 15 (Fifteen. 15!) years old and already knows more tricks than the average street magician. With incredible Dribbling (15), Technique (15) and Flair (16), he’s pretty much doing whatever he wants against players of his own age. If he can take that with him into first team football (he won’t be promoted until May 2nd when he turns 16 and is allowed to play competitive games) and improve his Acceleration (9) and Strength (2) he might actually be the real deal!

Lucas Sena Ginga Rating 70

Upon first look Lucas Sena may not strike you as outstanding, but he’s certainly got his attribute points in the right places when it comes to Ginga! Amazing Flair (16) coupled with great Acceleration (14) and Dribbling (14) makes him a real attacking threat. He’s already 17 though and may be near his potential, which is a bit sad. Only time will tell if this is as good as it gets or if he’ll surprise everyone and make it onto the world scene. At the moment he’s the leading “Ginga Warrior” though!

That’s it for now for our group of talented potential Neymars. Things won’t be this easy all the time though. The Santos FC Academy is not a bottomless well of talent that we can keep emptying (if it’s bottomless it’ll never empty, but you get what I mean). We’ll have the occasional player come through our own intakes, but we’ll need to find players elsewhere as well. To do this, we’ll use the slightly immoral approach from my Carrington Chronicles series. If you’re not familiar with it, don’t worry, I’ll explain below.

2. Sign

This is the filter that we’ll use to search for players. Since we’re only interested in Brazilian players we can restrict our scouting focus to only include Brazil, making it possible for us to basically keep every player in the country on our radar. We’re only interested in U18 players (which we found a few of, let’s get back to that soon) and we’ll mainly be active around intake days. This is where the slightly immoral approach comes in. We’ll scout for players with high Ginga and try to poach them away from their parent club before they get a chance to sign them to proper contracts. This will allow us to sign plenty of players, with the downside of us signing players before the scouting reports arrive, meaning that there will be more than a fair share of duds. The huge upside though, is the fact that we’ll steal some premium talent away from the other clubs!

As I already mentioned we don’t need to scout the world, only Brazil, which makes the number of players to keep track of much more manageable. We still need a fairly large scouting team though, with actual good scouts.

There are four scouts at the club when we start, which is nowhere near enough. With a bit of room to expand the scouting team things may actually become quite decent though. We need a Chief Scout, but we’ve also got room to hire four more scouts. Let’s start by looking at the current scouting team, before going into recruiting some more!

The most important attribute for our scouts is Judging Player Potential, since we don’t really care how good the players we want to sign are at the moment. We’re only interested in if they can be turned into diamonds or not.

In this department our current scouting staff actually look fairly good, except for the odd one out. Odair Dal Molin must be the nephew of the president or something like that, because that is the only reason why he could have been hired. He doesn’t know how to identify a great footballer from a decent one and he has no idea what to look for when scouting for potential talents. He has to go. The rest of them look ok, but I hope to improve this team quite a bit during this journey!

Two new scouts were brought in ahead of the first season, since they were the only two that matched both what we looked for attributes wise and had reasonable wage demands.

One player was also brought in.

Ed Carlos Ginga Rating 69

17-year old Ed Carlos comes in from São Paulo for the modest sum of £235K. He’s oozing with Flair (17) and looks well-rounded in the other Ginga skills as well. He’ll be promoted to the first team straight away and has the potential to keep improving!

Now that we have our players in place, it’s time to move on to training.

3. Train

Training will of course play a major part in the development of our players. No player evolves organically into a superstar without training. Instead, the lack of training or the wrong one may actually lead to players not reaching their potential. That is something we must try to avoid as much as possible, since the only way to reach the absolute top level is to maximise potential.

In the previous post I touched on the fact that the Youth facilities are only Good, which of course was my first order of business to address. The board were uninterested in my requests to improve this, stating that I was too new on the post to have an opinion. Fair enough, this meant that I needed to improve elsewhere. If I couldn’t decide what facilities we had at our disposal, at least I could decide who to train our players!

Most key staff functions are there, but we appear to have two open spots to bring in new coaches. That seems decent, assuming the current staff is good!

Well, this was ok at least. We’ve made the manager into some sort of coaching half-god which gives us a bit of an advantage, but there’s actually a couple of great coaches here besides MikaelinhoFM. Just look at the goalkeeping coach Arzul, 20s in each of the goalkeeping training skills! In the other end of the spectrum, coach Daniel Rosendo looks mediocre and or HoYD (perhaps our most important staff member) Jorge Andrade looks like absolutely useless!

I mean, how did this guy get the job, through some sort of lottery? Sure, he likes to work with kids and knows the difference between a half-decent boy playing in the streets and a premium talent, but surely I can’t be the first one to identify that this guy won’t find us the next Pélé or Neymar!? He is simply awful. I feel there’s a risk that he’ll make players worse during their time in the Academy! He needs to be replaced immediately!

We went on the search and found some really interesting candidates straight away. The first candidate had a great eye for talent and a Driven personality.

The only problem was that Marcos Antônio wanted a wage of £9k per week and we were able to offer him £2.7k. Of course he just laughed at us and told us to sod off.

Then we found another one, who perhaps seemed even better (disregarding his Temperamental personality, but you know what they’re like, these fiery South Americans, eh? Eh?).

The problem was exactly the same with Adílson Luís Luduvig as well, a £9k wage demand. Ok, it’s obvious that we can’t shop from this shelf, but surely we must be able to improve on what we’ve got!?

Yes! We certainly could! Rodrigo Dias, who came in from Sport Recife, has a Resolute personality, is excellent working with youngsters and knows how to differentiate between a good and a great player. He’ll do for now, welcome to the club!

Joining him were two Italians. Firstly veteran fitness coach Massimo Neri, a man that can whip even the laziest of Brazilian boys into shape!

And secondly former Juventus icon Ciro Ferrara. With a great eye for talent, a Model Professional personality and vast experience of top level football he will be pivotal in the development of our youngsters!

We also brought in attacking coach Norberto Batista. Not excellent, but still the best one out there for our money.

I hope that these gentlemen will be of great assistance, since I must admit that training isn’t my strong side.

All of the eleven chosen talents have been put on the “Trequartista” positional training, since it works on all the Ginga skills. They will all start with the “Ball control” additional focus on double intensity as well and we’ll evaluate the effects of this after a few months.

What you do on the pitch is not everything though, what you do off the pitch matters just as much!

4. Mentor

Even though the Brazilians have a certain soft spot for the more care-free, easy-going approach towards everything in life, including a professional footballers view on his own football, it’s my firm opinion that a more professional approach leads to a better player development. Therefore I have decided to use mentoring as much as possible in an attempt to improve the personalities of our talented players. With a squad basically consisting of only Balanced personality players we needed to find suitable mentors elsewhere. Our first search for players with a Model Citizen personality didn’t return that much…

An Argentinian well past his prime and a less-than-exciting Egyptian. That was it. So, we basically had no choice but to bring in Lucho González. Luckily he was transfer listed and wanted to leave so we managed to get him in on the cheap as a “football father figure” for our younger players!

One mentor wasn’t enough though, we needed to bring in at least one more. In hopes of finding a larger number of suitable candidates we downgraded our search to players with Model Professional personality, which sadly resulted in the exactly same amount of players.

An expensive defensive midfielder and an attacking veteran on a free transfer, this choice was even easier than the previous one! A 39-year old Danilo can’t be anything other than utter shit, you say? Well, you’re completely right, but we’re not signing him for his footballing skills, we only want his brai…personality!

It’s not enough to just sign these guys and put them to work, rubbing off their personalities on the young ones, though. No, we need to make them important players. They will probably not be able to achieve this by themselves by excelling on the pitch, so we need to help them along a bit! By making them captain and vice captain we managed to propel them high enough in our hierarchy pyramid to make them leave a big enough mark on our younger players. Apparently the kids listen more to their captain, than some random old-timer taking his daily nap in a corner of the dressing room.

Four talents were promoted at the start to be eligible for mentoring. Initially Lucho and Danilo were given two players each to mentor. Lucho, who has a slightly more desirable personality was handed the Fairly Determined duo with Danilo getting stuck with the Balanced guys. This approach proved more successful than I had hoped, with Lucas Sena going from Balanced to Fairly Determined after only a month of mentoring.

He was therefore moved up to the Lucho group which gave us three players in that group and only one player in the Danilo group, which lead to us promoting another two players from the U20s to join Danilo.

With players signed, mentoring groups ready and at least an idea for training we move on to games and playing time.

5. Play games

Here we’ll firstly take a look at the tactics that we’re using. We want to find a way to give as many of our offensively minded talents as possible playing time at the same time. This means that we’ll need to throw men forward!

We ended up settling on an adaptation of the Brazilian 4-2-4 formation, where the plan is to use our talents on either of the four offensive positions. I won’t go into much more details regarding the tactics right now, but the basic concept of it is to quickly get the ball up-field to our four attacking players and then use their creativity to mix running with and without the ball with a bit of passing to get the ball and several players into the box at the same time. The width will be covered by our two “Laterals” running up and down the flanks! Who said that football needed to be difficult? Certainly not the Brazilians!

With tactics down, let’s look at the actual playing time. One thing that is great (or daunting, it depends what sort of person you are) is the sheer amount of competitive games played each season. With Santos starting the season with 12 group stage games followed by knockout games in the São Paulo State Championship, this provides plenty of opportunities to give young players playing time without risking losing games. Our young players will play most, if not all, of the games against the weaker teams, giving them valuable time on the pitch as well as the chance to start adding goals to their aim of reaching 100 before they can leave for Europe!

In the league we’ll try to use our young players as much as possible, while still balancing the board’s expectation of us reaching the Copa Libertadores through a top 6 finish.

This brings us to the final step, selling players.

6. Sell

Selling players will of course be our main source of money to keep investing into our youth setup, nut it is also one of the steps in our aim to create the Next Neymar. Once a player has achieved enough glory (and goals) in Brazil, we’ll move him along to a club in Europe. Our best players will hopefully make big money moves to the power houses of Europe, where the saga can continue!

When looking at the finances below it becomes obvious that we’ll probably have to sell more players along the way, just to stay afloat!

Three players had a bit of interest surrounding them from the start and we decided to sell of all three of them to free up a bit of cash. Centre-back Lucas Veríssimo, defensive midfielder Alison and right back Daniel Guedes left the club for decent money, but the major disappointment was that more than half of the cash was either given to the player or to some external owner, which left very little for us. This meant that we had to keep offloading players, mainly focusing on the older guys and the ones on big money contracts.

After the sales we started the first season with at least a little money in the bank, and I’m certain we’ll find a use for this money sooner than later! I tried asking for an upgrade of the youth facilities but got turned down. I got an offer of £7M accepted for young striker Lincoln, but decided to keep the money for the intake days instead! Especially considering what our own intake preview looked like…

Summary

That’s it from this first episode. We have our six step strategy laid down for you and I’ll finish this post by simply repeating the aim of this series.

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.

In the next episode we’ll look at what happened in the 2019 season (Brazil play the entire season in one calendar year) and how far our players have come! Who is closest to the 100 goal mark? Who is in the top of the Ginga Rating list? Have we managed to poach any potential superstars during intake days? Join me next time to find out!

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