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Santástico – Ep 16: 10 years with Santos FC – A stroll down memory lane

As the clock strikes midnight and December 31st 2028 turns into January 1st 2029, we reach a milestone in the Santástico series, a ten year milestone. To celebrate that, I’m taking you on a stroll down memory lane! I’ve had so much fun playing and writing about this save and I’m gonna try my very best to display the love I have for this series through this anniversary episode.

I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’ve gone “Full Brazil” with a Santos FC shirt on my torso and Brazilian music in my ears while playing this save, if it’s the fact that I’ve started streaming it or if it’s the focus on individuals instead of team, but I have never had this much fun with a save before!

Ten years have passed since I started this challenge, a journey to see if we could create the next Brazilian super star. I used the likes of Neymar and Pelé as metaphorical yardsticks, of course because they are considered the best Brazilian players, contemporary and historically respectively. The other reasons for choosing these two, disregarding many fantastic Brazilian players, were two. They both came through the Santos FC academy and, even more importantly, they both personified the Brazilian concept of Ginga.

The challenge of creating the next Brazilian super star

In my opening post I used a quote to describe Ginga.

“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 

I wanted to use my interest for, and knowledge of, Football Manager player development to see if I could create not only a great Brazilian player, but also one of a special breed. A player, much like Neymar and Pelé, that could create a bit of magic on the pitch, using a unique skill set personifying “the beautiful game”.

For this challenge I set myself some tough ground rules to measure my players against:

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

This episode will cover many aspects of the series and we will revisit several players, long forgotten or still fresh in mind, to summarize the first ten years of this save. It will be in the form of a “Where are they now” meets Awards Show sort of episode, where I’m going to extensively use lists and statistics, doesn’t that sound like good fun? It doesn’t? Well, I promise you that it will be! Come now, let’s start our stroll!

The original Ginga gang

What better way to start our reminiscing than by looking at the original group of players I had at my disposal at Santos FC back in 2019 when the challenge started?

Ten players aged 15 to 18 to were identified as good enough to make up the original group of talents for the challenge. None of them are still with the club ten years later, and some of them have even quit playing altogether, but a couple of them have actually had decent careers. Let’s look at where they are now and at the same time introduce you to the first list of this episode!

How do you compare different players’ careers? Well, by using the aims of this series of course! By looking at what sort of impact they’ve had for Santos FC and/or other clubs and how good they’ve actually become attributes/Ginga wise I landed on a list looking like this:

The quitter

Giovanni

1 season at Santos FC. 0 games, 0 goals. Sold to São Paulo in 2020 for £550k.

Giovanni failed to impress early on and was sold to São Paulo. There the traces vanish. He is now retired and no record of his career is left to read. A good guess is that he didn’t make much of an impression, since the game basically treats him like he never even existed!

The underachievers

Caio Mota

3 seasons. 18 games, 3 goals. Sold to Goiás in 2021 for £1.1M.

Caio Mota was “meh” for us. We sold him to Goiás, where he’s been “meh” as well. Meh.

Lucas Sena

4 seasons. 63 games, 7 goals. Left on a free transfer to Sport Recife in 2023.

Lucas Sena never became a starting player for us, and was released on a free transfer when his contract ran out in 2023. He spent the next four years playing semi-regularly for Sport Recife in Série B, but didn’t play a single minute since their promotion to Série A two season ago. He just signed for Série C side América Mineiro on a free transfer, where he’ll hopefully become an important player.

Allanzinho

2 seasons. 4 games, 0 goals. Left as a free transfer to Bahia in 2021.

The expectations were low from the start with me writing that the combination of Allanzinho “looking like a wannabe thug and a very low Determination (4)” was a worry in 2019. He never made an impact for the club and moved on to Série A team Bahia where he failed as well. For Série B outfit Paysandu he turned into a solid player with 43 goals in 150 games. That performance earned him a move to Al-Fateh in Saudi Arabia where he currently enjoys the weather and earns £4.5k/w. Not too shabby for a wannabe thug!?

Ok in Brazil

Ivonei

2 seasons. 0 games, 0 goals. Sold to Palmeiras in 2020 for £1.8M.

Ivonei was the first player to leave, but he has actually had a decent career “under the radar” with over 400 Série A games for Palmeiras and Fortaleza. He turned into a solid Brazilian football worker, and a salary of £39k/w will certainly be enough to provide for his family!

Gabriel Pirani

4 seasons. 45 games, 3 goals. Sold to Chapecoense in 2022 for £4.9M.

Gabriel Pirani was a solid starter for the team back in 2021, but didn’t improve like I had hoped, so when Chapecoense in the Brazilian Série B cam in with a bid of almost £5M it was time for him to leave. He’s had a good career so far, playing 100+ games for current Série A club Atl Goianiense following a successful 4 year spell with Beijing Renhe in China.

Decent European careers or better

Kaio Jorge

8 seasons. 342 games, 186 goals. Sold to Sporting CP in 2025 for £10M.

Oh, Kaio Jorge! I had such high hopes for this guy when we started out and in one way he’s been a huge success and in another a real failure. Kaio Jorge is the modern time record goal scorer with 186 goals, almost twice as many goals needed to move to Europe, but he actually didn’t develop much as a player. In 2019 I wrote “Being a more physical type of attacker he needs to improve his technical abilities to avoid ending up as “The new Hulk”“. This is basically what happened. He sure knows how to score goals, but he never became a true world class player. He made one early appearance for the Brazilian national team, but didn’t develop enough after that to get a second chance. I basically had to give him away for free to get him to Europe and Portugal. In Europe history repeated itself. He was good in the first season for new club Sporting, with 23 goals in 35 games, but as he didn’t progress from there (29 goals in 63 games) over the next two seasons he fell out of favor. After 5 appearances off the bench in 18 months he was recently loaned out to Dutch side PSV Eindhoven.

Third place – Lucas Lourenco

10 seasons. 434 games, 43 goals. Sold to Grêmio in 2029 for £17.25M

One goal ever 10 games won’t make you into the next Neymar or Pelé, that’s for sure. It won’t even get you halfway to Europe! It became obvious pretty early on though that Lucas Lourenco wasn’t going to reach all the way. He stayed with the club for 10 seasons though as a supporting player, with solid performances throughout his entire time with the club. He got less and less playing time and finally I felt that he was only standing in the way of younger players, so I let him go after 2028 season.

Second place – Marcos Leonardo

305 games, 125 goals. Sold to Hertha BSC in 2025 for £17.5M.

Marcos Leonardo was 2nd in Ginga Rating at the start of this series with a Ginga Rating of 67 and he improved very nicely over the first few seasons to a career high 82 before moving on to Germany after reaching the 100 goal aim. He’s had a bit of a strange career after that, impressing enough in Germany for Grêmio (!!!) to sign him back to Brazil in a whooping £50M deal just to move him on to Benfica two years later. He is considered an important player for them and will most likely have several years left in Europe.

First place – Renyer

6 seasons. 192 games, 81 goals. Sold to Real Madrid in 2024 for £80M.

Renyer is by far the original player that has had the most success so far. After developing and performing better each season, finally we couldn’t keep him away from Europe anymore. Even though he only reached 81 goals for us, he left for Real Madrid in a record breaking £80M deal in 2024. After scoring 10+ goals in each of his five seasons with the Spaniards he is considered an important player, earning £425k/w!

Most goals for Santos FC

One of the aims of this challenge is to get players to 100 goals for Santos FC before I’m allowed to move them on to Europe. In the first ten season, four players have managed to reach this milestone so far and they all went to Europe pretty soon after this, which is the main reason for us not having anyone with 200+ goals.

Fourth place – Gilberto

104 goals in 198 games

Gilberto joined the club in 2021 when we basically stole him (£200k fee) from fierce rivals Grêmio. He improved nicely in the first few years, but had too many good players ahead of him for him to get enough playing time and goals. It wasn’t until he returned in 2025 after a season on loan at Dynamo Kyiv that he started to shine. 70 goals in two and a half seasons was just enough to get him over that 100 goal mark and we shipped him off to Europe. With a Ginga Rating of 85 I felt like the £20M deal moving him to Benfica was far too cheap, but I was hoping for him to perhaps develop enough in Europe to get close to the illusive 90 Ginga Rating aim. He continued to score for fun in Portugal, which got him on Real Madrid’s radar and a little more than a year after leaving Brazil he signed for the Galacticos. In Spain he’s sadly spent most of the time on the bench, though. When he’s been called upon he has delivered, with 7 goals in 13 starts, but he has actually declined slightly in his Ginga Rating due to the lack of playing time.

Third place – Talles Magno

113 goals in 256 games

Talles Magno was brought in in 2020 at age 18 for a record fee of £15M from Vasco da Gama. He mainly played out on the right in a lethal three man attack, together with Marcos Leonardo and Kaio Jorge. After reaching 100+ goals he left in 2024 for Italy and Lazio in a £24.5M deal. After two seasons with 18 and 14 goals he fell out of favor and returned to Brazil and Gremio before the 2028 season.

Second place – Marcos Leonardo

125 goals in 305 games.

First place – Kaio Jorge

186 goals in 342 games

Biggest sales

Over a ten year period it’s only natural for a lot of players to have left the club. Some have left for Europe as part of the challenge, while others were let go because they simply weren’t good enough. More than a few managed to secure the finances for an entire season through their sales. Let’s look at the biggest sales!

A bit surprising is that there hasn’t actually been that many massive transfers out. The £17.25M sale of Kauhan is our 10th biggest and the £25M price tag of Talles Magno is actually our 4th biggest sale so far! For the three biggest sales prices got a bit higher though!

Second place (tied) – Fábio José to Beijing Gouan for £40M

Fábio José was signed from low league club Grêmio Esportivo Brazil (no, not THAT Grêmio!) in 2020 for £275K. He increased his Ginga Rating by an impressive ten points in his first season, and a lot of fans started to whisper of a new potential superstar. Two and a half disappointing seasons later, both in training (Ginga rating increase from 77 to 81) and on the pitch (20 goals in 110 games) no-one was whispering about Fábio José anymore. Except for Beijing Gouan. And they weren’t actually whispering, they were screaming “We want him!”. When they offered £40M for him in 2023 we took the money and ran!

After 15 goals in only 49 starts over the last six seasons in China, I think it’s obvious who were the winners in this deal!?

Second place (tied) – Douglas Jardel to Jiangsu Suning for £40M

Douglas Jardel was signed in 2021 for £475K from Juventude and developed slowly but steadily during his six seasons with the club. His Ginga Rating increased from 71 to 82, but he never managed to become a regular player for Santos. He had 20+ goal loan spells at Sporting in Portugal and Cagliari in Italy, so there wasn’t any doubt that he knew where the goal was, but he just wasn’t good enough for us. He left for China in 2027 for £40M and has managed two 10+ goal seasons for his new club so far.

First place – Renyer to Real Madrid for £80M

Our biggest transfer by far. In late 2023 European clubs started to show a bit of interest in the 20-year-old Renyer. The occasional scout visiting games once in a while suddenly turned into several scouts from all the big European clubs each game. When the January transfer window opened in 2024, clubs started firing like in the good old wild west, trying to outbid each other. In April, after a frantic bidding war, Real Madrid came out victorius. An unprecedented £80M transfer fee for a player from a Brazilian club was impossible to resist. The only downside to this was that we didn’t get Renyer to 100 goals, which means that we need to bring him back towards the end of his career!

That’s it for player performances and achievements for now. Not even half this save is about the actual performances, it’s mostly about the individual players’ development. And in the heart of all player development saves, you have the youth intakes.

Best youth intakes

When I did research for this category I actually became a bit surprised by the high number of players that are playing professional football in 2028! Several of these players I haven’t even looked at since the actual intake. It’s nice to see that they’ve had great (or in some cases fairly mediocre) careers outside of the spotlights of this series.

A couple of the intakes have been awful, like the 2020 and 2023 ones, but three intakes have really stood out in a positive way!

The 2019 intake

The first intake ever was a good one and five players from this group reached professional status. Kauhan was the best one for the challenge, but without a doubt Vinicius has been the most important player for the club. Being a central defender he has worked hard outside of the spotlight, but he’s been magnificent for us. We’ll get back to him a little later.

The 2025 intake

Three exceptional players. That was a first and an only occasion so far. Juninho, Luís Carlos and Altair Lima were all great players Ginga wise and they are all still at the club. Maybe one of them will be the next big thing!?

The 2027 intake

Even though Luan Jefferson was the deemed the best player of the intake by our HoYD Sebastian Pait, it’s another player who have stolen the show. Willian 2.0 is the first player of this series who has actually looked like he is on a level above the rest of them! We’ll get back to him in the next section though.

Best 18-year-old

With the rule of me only being allowed to sign players 18 years old or younger for the challenge, 18 is the cut-off where I need to make the first assessment of whether a player seems good enough and shows enough potential to be worth keeping at the club. We’ve had some really good 18-year-olds at the club and these are the best of the bunch. If you’re allergic to wonderkids you better close your eyes now.

Gilberto and Julio Baptista were two of the first real high profile 18-year-olds to come through in 2022, both with a Ginga Rating of 78. In the last couple of years we’ve been spoiled by several really good 18-year-olds coming through. In the list above we find two players still at the club with another three in our top 3 list:

Third place (tied) – Marcos Leonardo (2021)

One of the original players and the only player on this top 3 that’s not still with the club. He showed great promise early on and kept improving in a steady fashion. At age 18 he was our best Ginga player by far and was actually our best 18-year-old ever until as recently as 2027.

Third place (tied) – Diogo (2026)

Diogo Ginga Rating 80

The combination of magical Dribbling and lightning speed was enough for Diogo to be the first 18-year-old to reach a Ginga Rating of 80 since the days of Marcos Leonardo. His Flair is the one thing holding him back from becoming truly great!

Second place – Luís Carlos (2027)

Luís Carlos Ginga Rating 81

His Driven personality has helped Luís Carlos improve to the point where he is considered the 2nd best 18-year-old the club has ever had. He is very well-rounded when it comes to Ginga skills, with Flair being slightly worse than the other four.

First place – Willian 2.0 (2028)

Willian 2.0 Ginga Rating 82

The boy wonder, the next big thing, the one who’s constantly on fire. Willian 2.0 has hit the ground running, making jaws drop everywhere he goes.

Highest Total Ginga Rating

With Ginga being one of the central aspects of this series, what would an anniversary post be without a list of the best Ginga players? Nothing, of course, so here are the ten players with the highest Ginga Rating throughout the years:

Three current players make the list of 4th to 10th placed players, including current super star Willian 2.0, which is pretty nice to see! Several of them have already left the club though, almost exclusively down to the fact that they were deemed to never become good enough to reach the 90 Ginga Rating aim.

Who are the players topping this list then?

Third place – Brandão (2027)

Brandão Ginga Rating 85

Brandão has had a solid career development wise and reached a Ginga Rating of 85 in 2027. His best Ginga skills are his Technique (19) and Flair (18), with Dribbling (15) as the worst one. The fact that he was still at 85 by the end of 2028 makes me believe that he won’t get that much better though, which is a shame.

First place (tied) – Gilberto (2025)

Gilberto Ginga Rating 87

Gilberto was our first player to reach a Ginga Rating of 87. His biggest weakness is his Flair (14), even though he managed to increase that by 4 points from the age of 16.

First place (tied) – Diogo (2028)

Diogo Ginga Rating 87

The second player to reach a Ginga Rating of 87 was Diogo, a current member of the squad. Ginga wise he looks a lot like Gilberto, lacking in Flair, but really strong in the rest of the Ginga skills.

Best development over one season

Some players have really impressed me, at least over a single season. A lot of player developments have led to me raising an eyebrow, and a few have even seen me raise both! All these record-breaking seasons have happened for players turning 16, 17 or 18 years old. The first player older than that on the list is 20-year-old Guiba who managed a 38 point increase in 2026, which is enough for a 21st place on this list.

One player with a Balanced personality made the list, in 10th placed Marcos Leonardo. Except for him, everyone on the list has held a “positive” personality at the time of their record season, with 2 Model Citizens, 2 Fairly Professional, 2 Fairly Determined, 1 Fairly Sporting, 1 Fairly Ambitious and 1 Resolute in the top 10.

Third place – Ricardo Pracidelli (2027)

66 point increase

Model Citizen Richard Pracidelli had one hell of a season on the training pitch in 2027, his first year with the club. A massive 66 attribute point increase included +3s in Finishing, First Touch, Long Shots, Composure, Decisions, Positioning, Agility, Balance and Strength!

Second place – Cesinha (2021)

68 point increase

Cesinha was the first player to have a truly amazing season development wise back in 2021 with a 68 attribute point increase. His most improved attributes were +4 in Vision and +3s in Heading, Anticipation, Composure, Decisions, Agility, Pace and Strengths.

First place – Vinicius Rodrigo (2027)

72 point increase

During the 2027 season Vinicius Rodrigo put in so many extra hours into training that he managed to better Cesinha’s development in 2021 with a 4 point margin! His record high 72 attribute point increase was the most evenly spread out, but included +3s in Free Kick Taking, Passing, Decisions, Vision, Balance and Jumping Reach.

Best supporting actor

Now that we’ve spent an entire awards show giving praise to the stars of the show, it’s time to pay homage to the hard workers. Several players have been truly exceptional for the club, but for one reason or another they’ve not been part of this challenge, which means that they’ve not received the attention they deserve. Maybe they are defensive players or maybe they were brought in after the age of 18. Either way, they have done their best everyday to improve others and played huge parts in each and every trophy won by the club. These are the best supporting players during my first ten years at the club:

Arthur

After a falling out with the Barcelona manager in 2024, Arthur returned to Brazilian football in a record breaking £58M deal. Many fans were surprised by the fact that he didn’t return to “his club” Grêmio, but instead fierce rivals Santos. Even more fans have been surprised by the fact that he’s remained with us since then and not returned to Europe. Like a fine wine he’s improved each season, finishing the 2028 season with a superb 7.59 average rating in 41 starts. He has been the single most important player for us, orchestrating play from his central midfield position. At age 33 he is still our best player, even though he’s slightly declining physically. I’m certain we’ll have one more great Arthur season, but I’m dreaming of two, maybe even three!?

Elzio Mello

Elzio Mello came through the 2022 youth intake, but he just lacked a bit of attacking spark to become the next Pelé. Instead, he’s been pivotal to our play one step further down the pitch. Partnering Arthur in central midfield he has grown into a super star for the club, despite his young age. This is a potential one club man and I hope he’ll end his career with Legend status!

Kaká

Not a youth intake player for us nor a player for the challenge since he was brought in at age 21, Kaká still holds a special place in my heart! A true complete forward he has been exceptional up front. During 18 months with us he produced magic on a regular basis and developed into the probably best player in-game at the moment. This of course didn’t go unnoticed, so after less than 60 games for the club he left for Manchester City. Good luck and I hope we’ll meet again!

Vinicius

And finally we have Vinicius. I mentioned him earlier in the youth intake section, and here he is. Another great player, but since he’ll never be the next Neymar or Pelé he hasn’t received much recognition.

A player who came through our 2019 youth intake and has remained loyal to the club, despite several offers from Europe. With 350 goals for the club and not a single sub-7.0 season so far he is the rock that we can all lean on!

The modern Santásticos!

I know, and you know, that this series is mainly about individual players and my quest to create the next Brazilian super star. I do feel that I need to dip my toes into the team performance stuff though, even if it’s just for a bit of context. We’ve had loads of great youngsters come through the team in the first ten years, and we’ve played some good football occasionally. But how good have our results actually been? We’ve certainly won a trophy here and there, but how good has this generation of Santos teams been and how do they compare with great versions of the past? Let’s use numbers again! Yay! And tables! Yay!

This was actually better than I had thought! 21 titles over 10 seasons, not counting the Brazilian or the South American super cups, is a really excellent record! In 1959-1974 the original “O Santásticos”, by soe regarded as the best South American team of all times, with Pelé in the team managed to win 25 titles, including 6 league titles and 2 Copa Libertadores. I fully believe that this ten year period is up there with the greatest of them all and the team fully deserve their nickname “Os Novo Santásticos”, The New Santásticos.

Amazingly enough, both me (MikaelinhoFM) and Arthur have made such an impact for the club that we’ve joined Pelé as Santos FC legends. Four of the five favoured personnel are current players, which means that we might have more legends in the making! The only surprise is that Elzio Mello appears to have not done enough to reach favoured personnel status yet…

Well, two new legends from this modern era is evidence enough that we’ve had a great ten year period! Hopefully we can keep building on this going forward. The first ten years of this series have been so much fun and I’m really looking forward to the coming ten. The big question though is how long we’ll have to wait for the Next Pelé? A year? Two? Forever? The only way to find out is to keep following along! See you soon and thanks for reading!

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