Tim Vickerycorrespondent in South America4 minute read
There is an interesting contract between them. Central midfielder Andrey has just a handful of first division appearances to his name with Vasco da Gama — one of the reasons he had to wait a few months for a work permit after being denied one in the winter transfer window.
Angelo is a few months younger: he’s not 19 until the end of December. But he is more experienced, with 129 senior appearances in top division and continental club tournaments. However, Andrey has the momentum after helping Vasco out of the second division, enjoying a terrific South American Under-20 Championship and breaking into the starting eleven for Brazil’s senior team against Morocco in March. Angelo has stagnated and a lot of this has to do with the nature of the club where he has been making a name for himself.
Pelé, of course, played for Saints, and, with a stellar supporting cast, surely made them the most famous Brazilian club in the world. This was already almost a miracle. It is one of the happy coincidences of football that the Santos team that Pelé joined in the mid-1950s was at an unprecedented level. Because the club represents a city that, by Brazilian standards, and compared to other historic teams in the country, is small. Even today the population of Santos does not reach half a million, eclipsed by the metropolis of Sao Paulo.
It is truly remarkable, and should not be taken for granted, that Santos was able to beat big-city giants like Corinthians, Palmeiras and Sao Paulo. After Pelé left, the club inevitably declined somewhat, only to come roaring back into the 21st century on the back of excellent youth development work. neymar and Rodrygo They were products of Santos, and head a long list of graduates who have earned the club good money in the transfer market. But this is an approach with obvious risk, and the risks are increasing as money flows into the Brazilian game.
Gaps are widening as big clubs find ways to make money off the size of their support bases. It becomes more difficult for a club like Santos to compete, especially since neither the fans nor many of the media understand the difficulties of the situation. Promising players are transferred, the next generation is released early, perhaps too early. Because the pressure keeps rising. Before they can find their feet, they are expected to be superstars.
And this, surely, has been a problem for Angelo. In difficult circumstances, too much responsibility was thrown on his shoulders. A left-footed winger who operates cutting from the right, Angelo has an impressive range of talents: speed, balance and acceleration, close dribbling skills, the ability to improvise on pace. He made his debut in the first division in October 2020 at 15 years and eleven days younger than Pelé when he played his first game. Since that debut, he has played under a whopping seven different managers, plus two caretakers, one of whom was in charge for three separate brief stints.
This instability is a consequence of the instability of the club and the inability of many to accept the reality of the situation. Angelo’s assistant coach, Argentine Ariel Holan, was overwhelmed by the youngster’s potential.
“He’s going to be a great player,” said Holan, delighted with both Angelo’s ability and his application. But Holan jumped ship after a couple of months. He saw the size of the task, and when protesting supporters set off fireworks near his home, he decided he’d had enough.
Trainers have gone and gone since then, but little has changed. The club is currently required to play its home games behind closed doors as punishment for a recent bout of fan violence, and the current campaign is sure to be an unprecedented protracted relegation fight.
From day one, Pelé had the privilege of being surrounded by world-class players who could help him develop as a professional footballer. Angelo hasn’t been so lucky, and his performances have paid the price. Before moving to Chelsea, he had lost his place in the starting line-up for a struggling team, and had to make do with occasional appearances off the bench.
Barcelona he had the option to sign him but refused to use it, thus opening the door for Chelsea, who will now have to treat their new acquisition with care. It has been speculated that it will be ceded to Strasbourg. That could give him the opportunity for more playing time, but there is also the danger of loan moves, when the youngster feels abandoned, above the requirements of the club that just signed him.
As a result, many careers have been derailed. Chelsea’s new manager, Mauricio Pochettino, has an excellent track record in developing young players. He has enough on his plate. But even if Angelo is loaned, it would be in Chelsea’s and Pochettino’s interests to make him feel included, to give him the kind of structure he has lacked. If they get it right, soccer fans around the world could end up feeling grateful.