As they celebrate a historic triumph for Santos, the talented pair will also know that the time has come to decide whether they need to move on in their careersCOMMENT
By Daniel Edwards
No matter what Neymar and Ganso go on to achieve in their careers, it is likely that last night in the Pacaembu will remain as one of the highlights. Santos downed Penarol 2-1 in front of almost 40,000 screaming fans to lift the Copa Libertadores for the first time in 48 years, and although the immediate aftermath was stained by an ugly clash between certain players, it was clear that Neymar especially was a million miles away.
While his team-mates went toe-to-toe with the Manya, the 19-year-old phenomenon appeared on another planet as he embarked on a solitary lap of honour, almost in tears as he soaked up the adulation of the fans who have taken him to their heart.
Neymar was the undoubted star of the Libertadores final, scoring a well-taken first goal and, in the second-half in particular, torturing the tired Uruguayans with his mazy dribbling and constant focus on goal. Ganso, meanwhile, was a little more subdued, understandable given that this was his first match back from a knee injury which kept him on the sidelines for six weeks and nearly ended his Copa America dreams.
Nevertheless, the neat touches and defence-splitting balls for which the youngster has become famous for in Brazil remained present and correct, and it was only the less than impressive finishing skills of striker Ze Eduardo that deprived him of the chance of assisting at least one further goal. It was a refreshing sight to see the two maestros share the same pitch; but the question is, for how much longer will they continue to do so?
There is no doubt that Santos have pieced together a wonderful young team in the Vila Belmiro. As well as the two best-known stars, Danilo was exceptional at right back on Wednesday, Alex Sandro on the other flank had an impressive cameo and goalkeeper Rafael has the ability to be a future Brazil No. 1. Old hands such as Elano and Durval steadied the ship, and the youngsters will only get better under the wise tutelage of Muricy Ramalho.
To develop, though, the team must stay as a unit, and it is here that things become complicated. Neymar is rumoured to have all but sealed a huge transfer to Real Madrid, while Ganso is wanted by both Milan giants and has done little to affirm his faith to the club which plucked him out of the northern Brazilian state of Para and turned him into an international.
Even in the euphoria of the Libertadores win, the No. 10 could not assure his future in Sao Paulo, telling FoxSports reporters that he did not know what the next few months held for him and his career.
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The romantics among us, and especially those who take a special interest in South America, should be hoping that the pair stay put for as long as possible, at least until December, where a mouth-watering clash between the Santasticos and Lionel Messi's Barcelona could produce the most highly-anticipated final in years. This is the singular fact that could help swing the balance and delay a move, especially considering that both players are earning a small fortune while they continue in Brazil.
The presence of Pele on the Pacaembu pitch last night could not help but provoke feelings of nostalgia. Seeing the old maestro revel in the screams of the crowd he served loyally as a player for nearly 20 years, and as an ambassador for the following 40, was a stark reminder of what it means to show total devotion to a club, and all Peixe fans would die to see Ganso and Neymar make Santos the world's best in the same way 'O Rei' once did.
Money talks, however, as does the promise of worldwide publicity and exposure across the other side of the Atlantic. The thought probably won't cross many fans' minds tonight, as they venture out to celebrate what is for many the first Libertadores in their lives. They should be aware, though, that this special evening could be the final flourish in their young stars' short, yet spectacular, Santos careers.