The likes of Pele and Neymar are just some of the truly world-class players that Santos have produced over the years and we’ve compiled the best into an XI.
The next player in line to get a big money move is Angelo Gabriel as the 18-year-old looks set for a €15million move to Chelsea according to reports.
We’ve looked back through the great players Santos have sold in the 21st century and compiled them into this amazing XI.
GK: Rafael Cabral
The Brazilian goalkeeper joined the Santos youth ranks in 2003 and made his debut for the club in 2010. Once established as a first-team regular, he quickly became a fan favourite and raked up 189 appearances in just four seasons.
He was capped three times for Brazil during his stint with Santos and European sides soon came calling. Napoli purchased the shot-stopper for a fee of around £4million in the summer of 2013.
Rafael had a short stint as the number one, until Pepe Reina returned to the club and took his place. His best stint in Europe came with Reading in the Championship as he won the clubs Player of the Year award during his debut season. These days he’s back in Brazil, playing for Cruzeiro.
RB: Jonathan Moreira
The rapid full-back got his big move to Inter Milan in 2011. Due to a variety of factors, Jonathan never quite fulfilled his potential in Europe, which he himself has admitted.
“I feel like I have failed,” Jonathan told ESPN in 2022. “There was no one else to blame. I was wrong in my attitude and in the way I viewed a great club like Inter Milan. When I woke up it was already too late, but there would have been time to recover if I hadn’t suffered the serious injury.”
A right foot like a traction engine, Alex was always box-office to watch. He had his fair share of glory while in Europe too, winning 12 trophies with Chelsea, PSV and PSG.
We could watch those thunderous free-kicks of his all day long.
A 𝗯𝗶𝗿𝘁𝗵𝗱𝗮𝘆 banger from the 𝗯𝗶𝗿𝘁𝗵𝗱𝗮𝘆 boy! pic.twitter.com/6yqlo5rKVY
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) June 17, 2020
Following a double-winning season with Santos, Porto snapped him up for around £11million in January 2012. His career path has been nothing short of spectacular since, enjoying spells with Real Madrid, Manchester City and now Juventus.
Throughout his career, the Brazilian international has got his hands on 17 trophies, including six league titles and two Champions Leagues. That’s some going.
LB: Emerson Palmieri
After impressing for Santos, Emerson made his move over to Europe as a 20-year-old. He enjoyed a short stint on loan with Palermo, before signing for Roma on a permanent basis in 2015.
Following West Ham’s triumph in the Conference League this year, the full-back became the first ever player to win all five of UEFA’s competitions.
With the Champions League, Europa League, Europa Conference League, Super Cup and European Championship all in his trophy cabinet, he’s won it all at European level.
After an outstanding campaign for Santos in 2004, which saw Elano bag 22 goals, Shakhtar Donetsk swooped in to secure his signature. After some solid years in Ukraine, the hype around Elano snowballed when he made his £8million move to Manchester City.
It didn’t take long for the Brazilian to gain cult hero status in England. Before the days of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, Elano and Michael Johnson were the midfield maestros at City.
— Premier League (@premierleague) June 13, 2018
CM: Thiago Maia
Maia was one of 19 players that Marcelo Bielsa signed for Lille in the summer of 2017, but things didn’t quite go to plan. Santos received around £12million for the midfielder, but he spent just two full seasons in Europe before returning to Brazil.
For those who were around at the time, the hype surrounding Ganso was through the roof. His journey with Santos was unforgettable to say the least.
“We don’t know [Rodrygo’s] ceiling,” Carlo Ancelotti told ESPN in May. “It’s hard to say. He’s a very elegant player, he can score goals, and he’s progressing in a spectacular way.”
While Vinicius Junior grabs plenty of the headlines at Real Madrid, Rodrygo is just as exciting. The 22-year-old became the second-biggest sale in Santos history when Real Madrid spent around £40million on the winger in 2018.
He’s already got his hands on eight pieces of silverware in Spain and looks destined for the very top.
ST: Gabriel Barbosa
The tale of Barbosa is truly fascinating. He lit things up for Santos as a youngster and scored 56 goals across 154 appearances. Inter bought into the hype and secured a deal worth £25million in 2016.
However, despite his prolific record in Brazil, things never worked out for Barbosa in Europe. “Today, a few years later, I know I could have done some different things,” Barbosa told The Sun in 2021. “My experience in Europe was a very quick story, I still feel frustrated.”
After things in Italy didn’t quite go to plan, he returned to Brazil and spent spells on loan with Santos and Flamengo before joining the latter on a permanent basis.
To this day he is still scoring at a ridiculous rate in Brazil, with 149 goals in 244 games since joining Flamengo. At 26-years-old, he could still be tempted by Europe in the future.
Plenty of youngsters would have wilted at the pressure that Neymar was under as a teenager. The Santos wonderkid was a phenomenon in Brazil as a teenager as he truly had the footballing world at his feet.
He even came 13th in the 2012 Ballon d’Or rankings, having never played in Europe at that point. Now Brazil’s all-time top goalscorer along with Pele, we’d say he more than delivered across his illustrious career.
Neymar at santos was easily the greatest young talent we've seen in our generation bc WOW
— 🥥🇲🇽 (@lilycortezx) June 22, 2023