2011 Santos Season ReviewBy: Gordon | December 31st, 2011
The Club World Cup Final marked the end to yet another eventful year as a Santos fan. It was with great successes, immense failures, beautiful attacking, and the – almost inevitable- comedy acts at the back. With the players on holidays and Brazilian football in a temporary lull, it’s time for a recap of the past twelve months that produced the most successful year since the time of Pelé.
The Campeonato Paulista
Cast your minds back to January and the winds – very cold winds in my experience – of change were blowing around the Vila Belmiro. The new president and his retinue were clearing out the old adminstration’s furniture. In came Adilson Batista to take Vanderlei Luxemburgo’s vacated coaching seat. His first task was to retain the State Championship title that had been won in such an entertaining fashion the year before.
Batista didn’t do a good job of it. The most prominent memory I have of the team during this period was a lot of boring, ineffective football, and Elano masquerading as a dynamic, goal-scoring midfielder.
Coupled with poor results in the Libertadores, it wasn’t long before Batista got his pink slip. In came Muricy Ramalho to steady the ship. The latter stages of the Paulistão saw the football improve as the new man in charge managed to get everything clicking on the field. In the end Ponte Preta, São Paulo and Corinthians – in that order – were dispatched in the playoffs to seal a second consecutive Campeonato Paulista trophy.
Good times. It was going to get even better a couple of months later.
The Copa Libertadores
Who would have thought that three games into the group stage, with the abyss of elimination just beneath the team’s feet, that the end of the year would bring the sight of another Libertadores cup in the trophy cabinet?
The change of coach was the catalyst. Muricy brought structure and purpose to the team following Adilson Batista’s mediocrity. The win away to Cerro Porteño was the first domino started the revival. From then on the journey was long and arduous, but, in spite of the mishaps and close calls, the team managed to pull through.
I will never forget that night in the Pacaembú. That night when Santos were once again crowned kings of South America.
The campaign had a slightly palindromic nature. The beginning and the end of the league season were marked by an air of indifference as a result of the later stages of the Copa Libertadores and the preparations for the Club World Cup respectively. What these two sections proved mostly was the general ineptitude of the reserves.
However, the middle of the campaign – counting from about the home game against Flamengo up to round 30 – was almost the same story even with the first team being available for the most part. There are many reasons – some would say excuses – that can be cited for the poor performances in this portion of the season. There were injuries, suspensions, international call-ups, complaints of mental and physical tiredness, and the most popular one of all, looking forward to the Club World Cup.
All of that being said, the eight game winning run apart, the showings were far below expectations, even with the reasons listed above. The players shoulder a large part of the blame for this, but Muricy was equally culpable. His tactics and team selection – Diogo starting over Felipe Anderson being the most repeated unforgivable sin – were often risible at best.
Still, there were some positives to take from the league season. Since most of them are listed below in the awards so I won’t speak about them here. Others include the aforementioned eight game winning streak. impressive wins over Botafogo and Vasco, and the incredible comeback from 3×0 down to draw with Internacional.
In the end our tenth place finish with a record of 15-8-15 was as much as the team deserved for the effort put in.
The Club World Cup
Ultimately, although the bid to become World Champions was unsuccessful, the aura that surrounded the tournament itself was great. The great three goals against Kashiwa will live long in the memory. Hopefully the thrashing at the hands of Barcelona does as well. It will serve as a good learning experience, especially for Muricy.
Here’s to being back at the tournament next December.
The End of Season Awards
Here are the top three in each category:
Game of the Season
3. Corinthians 1×3 Santos
This was one of those games that verified the adage that form is irrelevant going into a derby game. The fact that we were in the dumps and Corinthians were flying high made the victory that much sweeter.
2. Santos 4×5 Flamengo
The result stung a lot at the time, but even then I could still appreciate the spectacle that I had witnessed. Now, months later, the encounter stands out like a beacon. What a game that was.
1. Santos 2×1 Peñarol
The game that carried the Libertadores trophy back to the Vila Belmiro for the first time since 1963 will live long in the memory.
Goal of the Season
2. Borges vs. Botafogo
The turn and finish that broke Serginho Chulapa’s record.
2. Danilo vs. Cerro Porteno
The goal that saved our Libertadores campaign in the group stages.
1. Neymar vs. Flamengo
Was there any doubt?
Flops of the Season
Might have been higher if he hadn’t been injured for the last three months of the season.
He came in with a big price tag and a huge reputation but has shown nothing to warrant either.
Should consider a career in football comedy.
Special mentions for Zé Eduardo and the two transfer flops, Rhychely and Roger.
Revelation of the Season
3. Renan Mota
I was originally going to give this place to Felipe Anderson, but I already knew what he was capable of. However, Renan Mota came from literally nowhere to give a ten minute performance in the loss to Figueirense that made me take notice. Sadly, yt was his only first team appearance of the season. I’m eagerly waiting to see more of him in 20122.
The former São Paulo man was good in 2010 but in the first half of 2011 he was monstrous. His ability to dominate the game in midfield with his power and drive was awe-inspiring. The latter part of the year brought a huge dip in form, but I”m sure he will regain his powers soon.
The former youth product spent six years being farmed around on loan before getting his chance in the first team under Muricy in March. He took it with both hands. I would put forward the case that he was the most pivotal part of the entire team. Neymar and Borges scored goals and Rafael saved them, but only Adriano was the component that both balance to both phases of play. He accomplished this simply by doing his job as midfield shield well. His nullifying Martinuccio in the final was one of my highlights of the Copa Libertadores.
Adriano will make his return from the injury that kept him out of the Club World Cup in March. I’m sure he will re-establish himself as a first team regular.
Young Player of the Season
3. Felipe Anderson
Felipe still has a lot to work on in is game but he showed flashes this year of why he is considered to be Ganso’s heir. The Man of the Match performance away to Avaí was superb.
His poor second half of the season at rightback is the only reason why he’s not number one. As a midfielder in the first half of the campaign, Danilo was consistently one of the team’s best players.
The young goalkeeper was Mr. Consistency for the year. Aside from a couple of weeks where he was a bit underpar, Rafael showed why he is one of the top custodians in Brazil. He is only going to get better really.
Player of the Season
See Young Player of the Season.
Borges may have missed the Libertadores and Paulista campaigns, but he certainly made up for it. Twenty-three goals in the league season accounted for just under 50% of Santos goal total, and was enough to win the golden boot for the 2011 Brasileirão. Borges also broke Serginho Chulapa’s record for most goals in a season for Santos. He already has one of the best goals to games ratio in the history of the club.
The Borges Facts that his goal scoring prowess spawned was one of my highlights of the year.
This wasn’t even a contest. In 2011 Neymar went from exciting talent to force of nature. Once he hit his stride during the Libertadores campaign, every came battle between him and the opposing defense became akin to a skirmish between Achilles and some nameless Trojan soldiers in The Illiad. He slowed down as the year went on but saying that drop is comparable to a Category 5 hurricane becoming a Category 4. It was no surprise when he won the Craque do Brasileirão prize for the best player in the league.
What’s even more scary is the room for improvement that Neymar’s game. At only 19 years of age, the world is at his feet. Brazil has certainly already been conquered.
Funny Moment of the Season
3. Neymar and Renteria Dance
2. Durval’s Stare
1. Durval Freestyle
Now for a collection of stats from the past year.
Games Played:77; Record: 37-20-20
Goals For: 121; Goals Against: 74
Most games played: Rafael (68)
Most goals scored: Neymar and Borges (24)
Until Next Time
That’s all from me on 2011. I’m really looking forward to 2012 and all the experiences – good and bad – that it will bring. One thing I’m know for sure is that he centenary celebrations will be fantastic. To bring this post to a close, here’s a video of the best moments of the year:
For the final time in 2011, vai pra cima deles Santos!
P.S. My next post will be my last on this blog. More details will be forthcoming.