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Santos relegated for the 1st time in history

Santos rebaixado relegated primeira vez first time

After 111 years of history, Santos Football Club will play in the Serie B for the first time in its history.

A tragedy? No. Here, we will explain the tortuous paths that Santos has been going through in recent years and how long-standing irresponsible actions led Pelé’s team to its first relegation.

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Santos’ 2023 Brazilian League Campaign

Before delving deeply into all the factors that led the 2023 Santos squad to the biggest disgrace in the club’s history, let’s touch upon this Brasileirão’s specific campaign.

From the start of the championship, the impression was that Santos wouldn’t have lofty aspirations, with the club left to battle against relegation.

In the first 10 rounds, Santos persisted with Odair Hellmann, who had a dismal performance in the Paulista championship. The elimination in the group stage and the looming threat of relegation in the state championship weren’t enough for the Santos board to change course.

Within the first 10 rounds, Santos displayed poor football, devoid of significant ideas and abysmal performances. This was largely due to the squad’s weaknesses combined with Odair’s inability to extract any positives from these extremely limited players.

The breaking point came in the subsequent round, the 11th. Santos was defeated 2-0 by Corinthians, inside the Vila Belmiro.

The fans, deeply hurt by the neglect of the board and the management of Andrés Rueda and Paulo Roberto Falcão, wrongly erupted in extreme outrage.

At the final whistle, bombs and firecrackers were thrown onto the pitch while the players were still there.

Goalkeeper Cássio, in particular, faced an attempted assault by a fan who had invaded the field.

Chaos reigned in Vila Belmiro. Scenes that would happen again in the future. We’ll come to this part.

It can be said that this and the following moments were the only times the Santos fans couldn’t be praised. Such actions, besides being criminal under Brazilian law, also triggered administrative problems, causing Santos to lose home games at a crucial point in the competition.

The chosen replacement for Odair was Paulo Turra. Known for being assistant to the great Luis Felipe Scolari, he took over Santos.

His debut against Blooming in the Copa Sudamericana already hinted that this partnership wouldn’t bear fruit. In the new manager’s first game, Santos only managed a draw against the Bolivian side Blooming at Vila Belmiro, sealing their grotesque elimination in the group stage.

In a group featuring Newell’s Old Boys, Audax Italiano, and Blooming, Peixe failed to even secure a top-two finish. The reality was even more dismal. Santos had no chance of advancing against Blooming, yet they couldn’t even secure a victory. It ended in a 0-0 draw.

After 7 games in charge, Paulo Turra was dismissed due to a pathetic performance. He won only one match against Goiás, one of the relegated teams. In addition, there were three draws and three defeats. One of them against São Paulo, losing 4-0 at Morumbi.

The result of that match could have easily exceeded 8-0 for Tricolor Paulista, given the lack of organization and disregard shown by the players on the field.

Moreover, he adopted the famous tough approach, believing it would benefit the club. He sidelined several players for disciplinary and technical reasons. Soteldo was among those excluded. Clearly, the Venezuelan bears a significant share of blame, which was not small, in the whole mess.

However, besides training the team, the coach lacked the understanding of hierarchies within a football squad and failed to read the necessary approach the situation demanded.

The exclusions and the harsh treatment caused disputes among the players themselves, leaving the team in shambles.

Approaching the second half of the season, Santos found themselves in the relegation zone, with 18 points from 18 games played.

The replacement for Paulo Turra was Diego Aguirre. In the following round, Peixe faced Fortaleza in the last match of the first half, at Castelão.

The Uruguayan coach was already leading the team in this match. Yet, there was no injection of spirit. Another of the many pathetic performances resulted in another heavy defeat. Fortaleza inflicted a resounding 4-0 defeat.

In his brief and dreadful stint, he stepped down as the coach of Alvinegro Praiano after 40 days. He managed only one victory and achieved the feat of being the coach with the worst performance in charge of Santos in consecutive points systems. A shocking 20%.

To an observer, it was evident that he didn’t grasp nor show any concern for the delicate situation the team was in. He believed that, at that stage of the championship, it was possible to implement his style of play. That a squad devoid of quality and the desire to win could assimilate complex game plans in a short time frame. The result speaks for itself.

With nowhere to turn after so many mistaken choices, Andrés Rueda opted to give a chance to a familiar face.

The former coach, player, and permanent assistant, Marcelo Fernandes.

The in-house solution initially had a significant impact. It brought about three improbable victories against Bahia, Vasco, and Palmeiras. Much of this was due to the eventual blackmail by the ‘leaders’ of the team, who demanded Marcelo Fernandes as the head coach.

With these three heroic victories, Santos faced Red Bull Bragantino at Vila Belmiro, aiming to move away from the relegation zone. The result was a 3-1 win for Massa Bruta.

The subsequent game needs no comments. A defeat to Internacional, in Porto Alegre, with the most folklore scoreline in Brazilian football. Without mercy, Colorado hammered a 7-1 on an apathetic Santos.

Marcelo Fernandes continued to give hope. Santos recovered by defeating Coritiba 2-1 at Vila Belmiro in the following round.

They managed a sequence of 7 unbeaten games, with 3 wins (including one against Flamengo, away) and 4 draws.

Despite seeming positive, the repeated draws in games against São Paulo and Cuiabá, at Vila Belmiro, weighed heavily towards relegation. Both teams had little at stake in the championship, yet victory eluded Santos.

In the final three rounds, Santos displayed the same football they had been exhibiting previously. Three dismal matches against Fluminense, Athletico Paranaense, and Fortaleza.

Santos é rebaixado um ano após morte de Pelé em meio a lágrimas e quebradeira - Fotos - R7 Futebol

Image: Reproduction R7

Note that all three teams had their fates already decided in the championship, not competing for any position.

Despite this, Santos couldn’t even impose themselves morally on the field.

In the match against Fluminense, Diniz’s team outplayed Peixe in their own home. A complete domination.

That excitement and unexpected results gradually faded away. That was all that could be asked of Marcelo Fernandes.

The players, mostly lacking technical quality, couldn’t grasp tactical issues since the interim coach simply didn’t know how to develop them.

To understand the level of incompetence leading to relegation, Santos reached the final round depending solely on themselves. Competing against Vasco and Bahia, there were 27 possible result combinations among the three matches. Peixe would be relegated in only 3 out of the 27. And so it was.

Santos concluded the Brasileirão in 17th place, with 43 points, 10 wins, 11 draws, and 17 defeats. Moreover, they had the third-worst goal difference (-25), the third-worst defense (64), and the third-worst attack (39).

With the final whistle at Vila Belmiro, the Santos fans, who supported the team beautifully and unconditionally in all moments of difficulty, felt betrayed by the players’ negligence.

The result led to the creation of a true war scenario in the city of Santos. According to reports, fans attempted to invade the dressing room to assault the players.

Furthermore, cars and buses were set on fire in the stadium’s surroundings, along with severe clashes against the police, resulting in numerous injuries.

We understand the pain and sentiment, but such actions cause pain and distress to all sectors of society. Moreover, we condemn any form of violence.

Torcida do Santos ateia fogo no lado de fora da Vila Belmiro após rebaixamento - Esportes - R7 Futebol


The Path to Relegation

When we read the above title, we tend to believe that the tragic outcome of December 6, 2023, took months or a few years to unfold. However, the story is very different.

The last professional administration coincides with Neymar’s departure. Luis Alvaro de Oliveira, popularly known as Laor, presided over Santos from 2010 to 2013.

During the start of the so-called Neymar era, Laor assembled an incredible team that enchanted Brazil. Santos won the Copa do Brasil (with the best attack in the competition’s history), the Copa Libertadores, the Recopa, and clinched three consecutive Paulista titles.

At that time, the president was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2012, but couldn’t complete his term until 2014. In 2013, he had to step down due to health problems. Laor passed away in 2016.

The chosen successor was Odílio Rodrigues, a known counselor.

During this period, Neymar was sold to Barcelona. The total value of the transaction is speculated to be €87 million. Figures that would be staggering today were even more impressive in 2013.

The money supposedly injected into the club wasn’t felt in everyday operations. In 2014, Santos didn’t have significant increments in its functional structure or its team. Despite this, they didn’t face any scares regarding relegation.

But the mistakes were already glaring. The most prominent symbol was the signing of Leandro Damião, who indeed was one of Brazil’s best players.

The deal, starting at €13 million, was settled ten years later with an outlay of approximately €75 million. Yes, those are the numbers.

Damião was a disaster wearing Santos’ shirt. The deal, which included bizarre commissions and instalments, seemingly accrued interest upon interest in the debt owed to Grupo Doyen.

It’s curious to see how a club pockets €87 million and struggles to pay €13 million in the same year. Where did this money go? We don’t know.

Neymar se emociona e chora antes do adeus ao Santos

Image: EFE

Modesto Roma Júnior (2015 to 2017 – the “almost” generation)

Modesto Roma Júnior, son of Modesto Roma, president from 1975 to 1978, assumes office and initiates yet another dreadful administration.

He starts the so-called “almost” generation. Santos did win two Paulista championships, 2015 and 2016. They also avoided relegation.

However, as usual, to assemble a team that reached at most a Copa do Brasil final, lost in a very painful way to Palmeiras, Modestinho made a series of signings.

He brought back Robinho. Other players like Ricardo Oliveira, who indeed has a beautiful history with Santos, joined the young Gabigol to form at least a competitive team.

However, the resource management was disastrous, to say the least. There was no planning regarding the increase in new revenues. Santos remained at the old Vila Belmiro, earning meagre amounts, while their rivals played in state-of-the-art arenas in front of thousands of spectators and lucrative gate receipts.

Alvinegro started sinking into debts that multiplied with each passing year.

Juiz arquiva processo do Santos contra o ex-presidente Modesto Roma Júnior | santos | ge

Image: Pedro Ernesto Guerra Azevedo/Santos FC

José Carlos Peres (2018 to 2020 – a sinkhole in the vault)

In 2018, Peres was elected. He took over Santos in their first recent fight against relegation.

Despite this, there were no major scares. Cuca took charge, and the team finished mid-table.

In 2019, he decided it was time to invest in football, making a series of signings. Santos brought in expensive players like Soteldo, Marinho, Jorge, Luan Peres, Eduardo Sasha, Jean Lucas, Uribe, and many others.

To manage them, they hired Jorge Sampaoli. The Argentine coach continually demanded more reinforcements from the board, threatening to leave if not fulfilled.

With this squad, Peixe finished as runners-up in the Brasileirão, with 74 points, surpassing Palmeiras’ total points, who won that edition.

In 2020, the year of the pandemic, Sampaoli left Santos. The institutional crisis was glaring.

The club was put on FIFA’s Transfer Ban for not honoring the signing of Cléber Reis, a defender who didn’t make a significant impact. Soon after, there was a punishment for the signings of Cueva and Bryan Ruiz, two players who caused immeasurable losses to the coffers.

The players’ salaries were piling up, as Peres’ incompetent management, without delving into potential deliberate misconduct, couldn’t even pay the athletes.

Once again with Cuca and in a simply inexplicable manner, if not for the strength and tradition of its jersey, Santos reaches the Libertadores final but loses to Palmeiras with a last-minute goal.

In the Libertadores final, which took place in January 2021 due to the pandemic, Peres was no longer the president.

He was impeached in November 2020, accused of reckless management.

His vice president, Orlando Rollo, took over. He, who in December 2022 was preventively arrested for alleged involvement in diverting cocaine from a criminal faction. This is the level of those who led Santos.

Torcedores do Santos pedem que José Carlos Peres renuncie ao cargo de presidente

Image:  Ivan Storti/Santos FC

Andrés Rueda (2021 to 2023 – majorly responsible for the tragedy)

Considering the calamitous financial situation, Andrés Rueda, a known successful businessman, was elected, speaking about fiscal austerity.

The flag raised by the current president was that Santos would take the same path as Cruzeiro (relegated in 2019 and having three Serie B campaigns) if it didn’t control expenses and organize finances – it took the first step towards this path.

Consequently, they sold all the key players from the impressive 2020 Libertadores campaign. Lucas Veríssimo, Luan Peres, Kaio Jorge, and many others.

Somehow, he believed that if expenses were cut, the team could perform well enough to stay in Serie A until the accounts were balanced. Only then would the club be ready to take the next steps.

He became a hostage to the sad script he wrote himself. The assembled squads, hired coaches, and directors were all chosen in a completely random manner.

He, who promised professional management, saw his tenure considered the most amateurish of all. There was no sports planning for Santos.

He showed no knowledge about football as a sport. He thought he was managing one of his companies, where in times of hardship, employees are laid off, and costs on coffee and bonuses are cut. What he didn’t know is that a football club, even if it’s a company, is not just a business.

Managing a club involves many other aspects, which were not considered for a single minute.

According to internal sources, he maintained a centralising role, taking on every responsibility, leaving directors and coordinators without a role. A role that remained vacant since assuming responsibility but not fulfilling it properly created a leadership vacuum across various levels.

Sportingly, indisputably, it was the worst three years out of the other 111 years of Santos.

For three consecutive years, Santos faced the risk of relegation in the Campeonato Paulista. Yes, in the state tournament.

Clearly, the lack of competitiveness in a competition of much lower quality than Brasileirão could only result in even more pathetic performances.

Santos struggled in the Brasileirões of 2021 and 2022. They narrowly avoided relegation towards the end.

For those who watched and had some knowledge about football, it was evident that, at some point, playing in Serie B would be inevitable.

Therefore, in December 2023, almost a year after the death of King Pelé, Andrés Rueda and his management sealed Santos’s fate and sent them to Serie B.

The management can be considered schizophrenic. Rueda started the year by selling homegrown players that Santos traditionally produces and signed cheap players lacking technical quality. As a result, their performance in the Paulistão was disastrous, as previously described.

When they entered Brasileirão, the technical disparity became even more evident.

The fans and media started pressuring for reinforcements. Rueda then decided to act in the market, under pressure. The result was signings of mediocre players at exorbitant prices.

He said, upon being elected, that he wouldn’t make crazy signings. It backfired. In three years, he made a staggering 43 signings!

The loss in prize money due to dismal performances in competitions is immeasurable.

Regarding internal management and athletes, it was another display of incompetence. Another alarming number was the 12 coaches who passed through Santos. In the same period, Palmeiras had only Abel Ferreira.

The choices for coordinators were also a disaster, except for Gallo, who entered the eye of the storm and actually did what he could.

Edu Dracena and Falcão assumed the roles but didn’t make any relevant changes.

Dracena, for example, publicly exchanged barbs with Rueda, claiming that falsehoods had been said about a supposed fight with Fábio Carille.

Falcão was also heavily criticized for always being distant from the players’ daily routines, showing a total contradiction in the figure of a coordinator, who should be alongside and support the squad in all moments, especially in difficult ones.

Finally, the journey of Andrés Rueda and Santos in Serie A comes to an end.

In two days, on December 9, the club will go through another election. The strongest name to take over is Marcelo Teixeira, president from 2000 to 2009, who experienced both good and bad phases.

Football cries out for a restructuring of Santos. The only one to stop a war. The team that scored the most goals in the history of football. The home of King Pelé.

Andres Rueda, presidente do Santos — Foto:

Image: GE

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