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Santos set to reveal another winning pair of young 'craques'

The pair of youngsters are looking forward to coming through together at Santos
It is a conundrum that many clubs around the world have struggled with, how to produce the young talent needed to compete at the highest level in an affordable manner? Yet Santos seem to have cracked it, report Brazilian media giant Globo.

The club who produced the iconic striker Pelé in the 1950's, have produced some of Brazil's finest talents in recent years and the remarkable success has seen the biggest talent's unleashed onto the world stage in pairs and it looks set to happen once more.

Between 2002-05, it was Diego and Robinho, then in recent times it has been Ganso and Neymar. Next, get ready to meet Victor Andrade and Gabriel Barbosa.


A new generation of talent at the Vila Belmiro


"It is a pleasure to play with Gabriel," says Victor Andrade, who hit the headlines when he signed a massive new contract with the club, days after his sixteenth birthday.

"We met about four years ago. It was in my second training session at Santos. He was even younger than me, but he was the captain, the team's golden ball and he was just dribbling around everyone. 

"I thought to myself, 'Damn, I need to team up with this guy right away!'"

Gabriel, who is commonly known by the nickname Gabigol returned his colleagues praise, with a hopeful sentiment that one day they will entertain the crowds at Vila Belmiro, just as all those have done so before them.

"God willing, the Santos attack will be Gabriel and Victor. But, there are others coming through as well, a very good generation is going to emerge," said 15-year old Gabriel, who will travel with the Brazil Under-15 side to the South American Championships next month.


A change of direction


Born in Aracaju on September 30, 1995, Victor Andrade spent his early years playing football in local leagues, before he caught the eye of a scout from Portuguese giants Benfica.

At just eleven, the youngster travelled to Portugal alone and over the course of six months, overcame homesickness, scored goals and won trophies in Lisbon.

"At first, I was scared. He had no passport and was suddenly going to Lisbon. He went there, played well and came back to Brazil. Six months later, Benfica has called us to definitely go," says Christiane Andrade, mother of the young Santos prospect.

Benfica were desperate to retain him, offered his family a new life and employment in Portugal, as well as a financially rewarding contract for the player. But then, when the player became the subject of the TV Globo show Fantástico, his life changed.

"The Santos staff heard of Victor and invited us to the Vila Belmiro," continued Cristiane. "Victor was a huge fan of Robinho and wanted to come.

"We were ready to move to Portugal, but he was adament and asked to come and visit Santos.

"When he arrived, he through our bags and my life in the air. He just stood his ground. I had to quit my job at the bank!"

Victor still remembers the day clearly, despite his young age.

"When I entered the Memorial Hall of Achievements at Santos and saw those pictures of Robinho, I told my mother: I will stay here!"

Victor now has a professional contract at the club with a buy-out clause of €50million. Santos will no doubt be forever grateful for that TV Globo documentary.


The pride of a family


Born in Sao Bernardo do Campo, in the region of ABC Paulista on 30 August 1996, Gabriel arrived at the Santos club in 2004.

A dedicated Santos fan, his father Valdemir quit his job in Serra do Mar to facilitate his son's career at the club and minimise travelling.

Gabriel was spotted by the club at a futsal tournament, where ironically he was representing São Paulo.

At the tournament, it just so happened that Santos legend and Brazil World Cup winner Zito was the coach of the Santos side. The icon of the Vila Belmiro was so impressed by what he had seen that he immediately arranged for Gabriel to visit and join Santos.

"When Giovanna (Gabriel's sister) was born, the two were both very young," says Gabriel's mother, Lindalva Barbosa. 

"It was very difficult, but it worked. We came to Santos, who gives us the entire structure. 

 "Our life has changed thanks to Gabriel."

Gabriel's father Valdemir could not hold back his emotion when discussing the sacrifices they had made for their son's progress, unable even to complete his sentence.

"In life, we must always dream. Of course it is difficult, but we must believe it will work. I always tell him, that looking back...," manages his father, before he is unable to continue.


A close friendship


Victor and Gabriel first met in 2007, when the former arrived from Aracaju (SE), after which they formed a quick bond in winning the Under-13 São Paulo State Championships together in 2008.

For the moment, they are apart. Victor is in his first year as an Under-17 professional, whilst Gabriel remains in his final year with the Under-15's, being a year younger. Next year, they will reunite once more.

"In the beginning, things were difficult for me because I was new to the club, I was coming from afar," Victor reminisces. 

"I would ask for the ball and they wouldn't pass to me. I just came home and cried a lot. 

"Over time, I got to join-in a lot more and got to know the boys and Gabriel, so we became good friends."

Although now in separate age-groups, the pair still meet up regularly, although the younger patner admits he is not always happy with his treatment!

"He was very shy and new to the team, then he loosened up a lot," Gabriel remembers of his colleague. 

"It eventually became a very good friendship. Too bad that he never pays for the pizza when we go out! 

"He already has a professional contract, but he is still a tightwad!"

The expectation is that Gabriel will follow in Victor's footsteps and sign a professional contract at the club next summer, with a view to the pair playing for the first-team together in 2013.

Santos seem to have done it again and produced another batch of youngsters to entertain the crowds at Vila Belmiro.


Original [Portuguese] - Globo



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