Young Santos to compete with Barcelona in Club World Cup
AP, Thursday 23 Jun 2011
Having wrapped up the Copa Libertadores title for Santos on Wednesday, talented Brazilian youngsters Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso are already eyeing their upcoming challenges

Ganso helped set up Neymar’s goal that opened the way for Santos’ 2-1 victory over Uruguay’s Penarol on Wednesday, giving the Brazilian club its third title in the Latin American competition, the first since Pele was its biggest star in the 1960s.

On Thursday, the pair will travel to Argentina to join the Brazilian squad preparing for the upcoming Copa America, where the Selecao will be aiming for a third straight victory in the continental championship.

“It’s time to go after my third South American title,” said the 19-year-old Neymar, who earlier this year led Brazil to the continental under-20 title.

Then, at the end of the year, the talented young Brazilians could be facing the might of European champion Barcelona in the Club World Cup.

“We still have a few months to go before we get there, but it’s going to be interesting,” Neymar said.

Santos coach Muricy Ramalho is hoping both players choose to stay with Santos for an encounter with the likes of Lionel Messi, even though it will be hard for both club and player to resist the huge transfer offers from some of Europe’s biggest clubs.

“It will be difficult to play against Barcelona even with these two guys in the team, imagine without them,” he said.

Since emerging as teenagers a couple of years ago, Neymar and Ganso helped the club win the Brazilian Cup in 2009 and back-to-back Sao Paulo state championships in 2010 and ’11. The Copa Libertadores was the major title missing.

“This title puts this generation in the history books,” the 21-year-old Ganso said. “We are making history with another title, with a groups of young winners, young fighters who honor Santos’ jersey.”

Ganso returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday after more than a month sidelined because of a right thigh muscle injury. He started the play that led to Neymar’s goal with a nifty back-heel pass to midfielder Arouca, who then found Neymar inside the area.

Santos became known for the first time because of Pele, and more recently it exported young talents such as Robinho and Diego to top teams across the world. The team led by Robinho in 2003 lost the Copa Libertadores final to Boca Juniors of Argentina.

“We have to thank these young guys for giving us this title,” Pele said, with tears in his eyes as the players celebrated around him.