The new Santos is looking a lot like the old Santos - the one made famous by Pele in the 1960s.
Led by Robinho and a group of talented youngsters, Santos is putting on a show nearly every time it gets on the field, just like it did when Pele was its biggest star.
The latest performance was a 9-1 trashing of Ituano on Sunday in the traditional Sao Paulo state championship, a competition it comfortably leads. The entertaining victory came only 10 days after Santos trounced Naviraiense 10-0 in the first round of the Brazilian Cup.
"It's getting hard to keep track of all the goals," 23-year-old Santos midfielder Madson said.
Santos has scored 60 goals in 18 matches so far this season, an average of 3.3 goals per match. It has won 14 of those games, drawing twice and losing two.
Other impressive victories this season include a 5-0 result against Gremio Prudente, a 6-3 win over Bragantino, and a 4-0 thrashing of Remo. Santos won 10 in a row earlier this year.
"It's nice to be able to play like this, always thinking about attacking, we are not overly concerned with defense right now," coach Dorival Junior said.
With Pele, Santos was nearly unbeatable in the 1960s. It was used to routing opponents and easily winning competitions.
The only other time Santos impressed as much was in the early 2000s, when Robinho was a youngster along with Diego - now with Juventus in Italy - to lead the club to the Brazilian league titles in 2002 and 2004.
Robinho, now one of the team's oldest players at 26, returned on a six-month loan from Manchester City, but he is not Santos' only star.
Eighteen-year-old Neymar - known as the new Robinho - is attracting just as much attention. Arguably as skillful as his teammate, Neymar quickly made his way through the Santos youth teams and was an established starter at 17.
There have been calls - from Pele among others _for him to be called up to the national team. Pele was 16 when he made his national team debut.
"These players know they are really good," Pele told local media recently.
In addition to Robinho and Neymar, there is also 20-year-old Paulo Henrique Ganso, 19-year-old left back Wesley and 19-year-old striker Andre, who scored three of Santos' goals against Ituano.
In addition to scoring plenty of goals the young group has another trademark - choreographed celebrations which have been pleasing fans and even getting other teams to follow suit.
The victory on Sunday - the biggest in the tournament in 46 years - came despite the absence of Robinho and Neymar. Robinho is nursing a minor thigh injury and Neymar was suspended after a red card in the last match.
Ituano played a man down from the 27th minute and had two other players sent off in the final minutes.
Santos reached 35 points from 15 matches in the Sao Paulo tournament and has all-but-secured a spot in the semifinals, which begin next month. It is trying to win the competition for the first time since back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007. It was runner up to Corinthians last year.
A Santos team featuring second-stringers fell to the New York Red Bulls in a friendly Saturday that opened the Red Bull Arena. - AP
Published March 23 2010