Santos FC, the club of Pelè, history, stars and fortunes

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Pelè is by far the most mythical footballer ever, not to forget other greats, but no one can count winning the World Cup three times, massive numbers of trophies at Santos FC, and also opening the eyes of Americans to the game of “soccer”, seeing him doing a famous return to the game and turn out for New York Cosmos in the NASL.

His last game in football or “soccer” if you like, was in a friendly between his two clubs, New York Cosmos and Santos FC. He returned to the game after leaving Santos FC in 1974, and then “turning back the clock” and “start again”, with Cosmos a year later.

We have seen Pelè being “commercialized” with New York Cosmos, but the club he served so beautifully over all those years in Brazil, Santos, has always just been attached to his name, but there are so much more.

During the days of Pelè, he mostly played under the same manager, Lula, who was in charge of Santos FC from 1954 to 1966, and in a way established Pelè as the player he became, and gave him his birth in football.

Lula is one of the most successful managers in Brazilian club football history, winning the Paulistao for the first time in 1955, after a 20 year drouht and wait, and led his Santos FC to that title nine times.

Lula was described as the one building that fantastic Os Santasticos, and started to field Pelè in the 1957 season. This group of players seen as Os Santasticos won a total of 25 titles between the years 1959 to 1974, two times winners of the Copa Libertadores, being coached by Lula and later Antoninho.

Pelè was of course important and the main man, but you also had other legendary players in the Santos teams, one was goalkeeper Gilmar, who had the gloves in 94 internationals being in goal when winning the World Cup in 1958 and 1962. Gilmar played 266 league games for Santos, in a period of eight seasons from 1961 to 1969.

The big amount of games played in Brazil at this time made it impossible to just have one goalkeeper and in the same era Claudio added up the impressive tally of 225 league appearances.

During the years of Os Santasticos, Pele scored what in Brazil is known as “O’Milesimo” (The Thousandth), goal of his career. The goal was socred in a game v. Vasco Da Gama, a penalty kick, at The Maracana Stadium.

Other players might be overshadowed by the great influence and importance of Pelè, but this superteam also included legendary players such as Pepe and Zito, probably not as known for our generation of football fans. Pepe played 750 games for Santos, scoring 405 goals, a winger and amazing performer. He played in the years from 1954 to 1969. Pepe is among the most legendary “trainers” in the game, being in the management trade from 1973 to 2005, seen last in charge of Al Ahli.

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The player Zito is also one to recognize. A midfielder with a fantastic eye for a pass and also a good finisher. Playing alongside Pelè and Pepe, adding up 727 appearances and scoring 57 goals in years from 1952 to 1967. Zito played in the 1958 World Cup final, alongside Pelè and Orlando who all were players from Santos, though Orlando joining later.

Pelè netted two in the 1958 final, while Zito became lucky four years later scoring in that 3-1 win v. Czechoslovakia, with Pelè absent from the final line-up, due to injury, but is seen as winner of three World Cup’s. The team in 1962 was captained by another legendary Santos player, Mauro Ramos.

Carlos Alberto arrived at Santos in 1966, and he left in 1974, adding up 445 league games in which he scored 40 goals, that is an impressive tally for a right back. The mythical player, mostly due to his fantastic goal in the 1970 World Cup final. Cloadaldo was also playing that 1970 final, at the age of 21, strangely not getting more than 38 caps, but still adding up 510 appearances for Santos, scoring 50 goals.

When the 1974 World Cup arrived Santos FC had two players included. Defender Marinho Perez who later played for Barcelona and the legendary forward Edu, who had a long and strong presence at his club, adding up 584 appearances in 10 years, scoring 183 goals. He won five Paulista, and seen as one of the greatest. Edu did participate in the 1970 and 1966 World Cup’s.

During the years of Pelè, Santos was a team with great appeal and admiration. They were seen in Europe, touring around to “cash in”, playing the likes of Feyenoord, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Hamburg, and their appearances in England will forever be with those present. Plymouth Argyle, with a crowd of 40.000 at Home Park, Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa and Stoke City were all clubs meeting Santos FC during those days, with the last European tour seen in 1973.

Back from European tours and playing in Brazil, Santos were champions again in 1973, with Pelè in the team, and than again in 1978, driven by the amazing, Juary, just a teenager at the time. After this time, Santos FC went into a decline and didn’t really see them back in the limelight until 1983, when Serginho became their next big hero, scoring some very important goals and seeing the club lifting the Paulista again.

Since then the club have had their up’s and down’s with declines and rises as they always are in there to compete and be one to count. In 2002 they won the Brazilian first division, Serie A, again for the first time since 1968. The legend Emerson Leao had taken they charge of the team, and managed the miracle act again in 2004. Santos FC have won the Serie A, eight times. During that period, 2002 to 2004, the club had a number of strong players and the names Robinho, Alex and Diego all made their breakthrough, as Santos FC again had a rise to the top. 

The next big era in the club history is very recent and of today, seeing them starting a recruitment of very young players and a certain Neymar Jr emerged on the football scene. Another player to mention is Ganso, who we have seen in Europe with clubs such as Sevilla and Amiens. Today they are currently 3rd in the table of the top flight, Serie A, and their biggest star is seen as Brazilian international left back, Jorge, who at the moment is back on loan from Monaco. The 23 year old is the only player from Santos to be part of the full international setup.

The club is in an exciting time, and just recruited former Argentinian national coach Jorge Sampaoli as their new boss. He has signed a two year deal and hopes are that he can steer the club to great success at Santos FC that once fielded Argentina’s World Cup winning coach, Cesar Luis Menotti, that in 1968 partnered Pelè up front winning the Paulista.

Santos FC, a club in our part of the World best known and always attached to the most mythical player in the World, Pelè. But as this story tells you other big stars are also part of their history, being in a bit of a roller coaster ride during time.

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