The Brazil star's €57 million departure to Camp Nou has left a gaping hole at Peixe and Goal examines which of the club's batch of prospects could step up and fill his bootsBy Tiago Domingos
There is an old cliche in football that claims no player is irreplaceable and it is one that Santos supporters are no doubt clinging to following the €57 million sale of Neymar to Barcelona back in June.
After all, this is the same club who have produced the likes of Elano, Diego and Robinho in recent times - not to mention arguably the greatest footballer of all time in Pele.
But for Santos, the stark reality is that talents as prodigious as Neymar don't come around very often and though they were at least marginally compensated for the loss of their star man - after various third parties had taken their portion of the fee - no amount of money can possibly compensate for the void left in their attack.
However, as the 21-year-old prepares to face his former team-mates in the Joan Gamper Trophy at Camp Nou on Friday night, just two months after leaving the club, the latest prospects on the Peixe conveyor belt will audition to succeed Neymar on the Santos throne.
Goal takes a look at the side's rising stars and their respective credentials as the search for the 'new Neymar' begins at the new home of the club's former hero.
|NEILTON | Age: 19
The greatest weight of expectation lies on the shoulders of Neilton after he inherited the No.11 shirt famously worn by Neymar prior to his departure. The digits on the back of his jersey are not the only similarity between the pair either, with the 19-year-old sharing the same ability to bamboozle opponents with a cocktail of speed, dribbling and samba flair. He has an eye for goal, too, scoring four times - including a double against Portuguesa in a 4-1 win - since making his Santos debut back in March. Dubbed 'the new Neymar', big things are expected of the forward in the coming months.
|GABRIEL | Age: 16
Most 16-year-old Brazilian boys spend their free time on the local futsal court, but Gabriel has already shown he is far from any ordinary teenager. Back in May he was handed his first team debut in a 0-0 draw with Flamengo - the same age at which a certain Pele made his senior breakthrough and several months earlier than Neymar was handed his first-team bow. The forward's agent, Wagner Ribeiro, has claimed his client struck a staggering 600 goals in the futsal version of the game as a youngster and with a €50m buy-out clause inserted in his contract, Santos could have another teen sensation on their hands.
|VICTOR ANDRADE | Age: 17
Equally at home as a left winger or in a roaming forward role, Victor Andrade has already attracted the interest of European sides - despite only making his debut just over a year ago. His first taste of first team football came against Fluminense in June 2012 and he has since gone on to make a further 22 appearances for Peixe. But interest in his talents emerged long before his rise to prominence with the club's senior side. After shining in a youth tournament at just 11 years old, Portuguese side Benfica made their interest known, but unsurprisingly had little success in their bid to lure away one of Santos' hottest talents.
|GIVA | Age: 20
Unlike his fellow Santos prospects on our list, Giva's formative years were spent with Vitoria before Peixe attained his services in 2012. He took little time in making an impact, quickly being promoted from the club's youth team and handed his first senior outing against Campeonato Paulista back in February. At 186 centimetres tall, Giva provides very different physical attributes than those Neymar brought to the side and is a more orthodox centre forward who could become the focal point of the Santos attack in the years to come.