In an astonishing display of kowtowing to Boy Power, the Santos Directors have destroyed the cornerstone of the framework that transformed their club earlier this year into the most attack-minded club in world football by sacking manager Dorival Junior rather than discipline superstar ‘Wonderkid’  Neymar.

Last Wednesday 15th September, Santos were 3-1 up against Atletico Goianos with 6 minutes to play when Neymar won a penalty when a typically mazy run into the penalty area was ended by a late tackle. Neymar has been the main penalty taker this season but has recently missed  a few, at least one by trying to be too smart in deceiving the goalkeeper. Young  Neymar assumed he would take this penalty but the manager Dorival sent a message via the captain that Marcel not Neymar was to take the kick. Neymar argued vigorously with his captain then ran off to the touchline and subjected a bemused Dorival to a prolonged outburst of vile verbal abuse. He continued his childish sulk by refusing to pass to his teammates for the remainder of the game, at the end of which he stormed off still in a giant huff. (The whole incident can be seen on You Tube by googling ‘Neymar tantrum’)

After the game, Dorival made it clear that this kind of behaviour was totally unacceptable and that Neymar would require to be severely disciplined. He said  “I have never in all my career seen such a problem with discipline. This is very serious and cannot be allowed to go unpunished”.  At first it seemed that the club directors agreed and it was announced that Neymar, already a multimillionaire at 18 years of age, would be fined an undisclosed sum and suspended for an indeterminate period. There was also talk of referring the young millionaire to a psychologist, given that this outburst was just the latest in a series of indisciplined outbursts  both on and off the pitch.

Neymar duly missed the next Santos game, against Guarani. In the meantime, after being publicly criticised by his appalled father, Neymar issued an apology. He claimed he was embarrassed by his outburst. He stressed that the behaviour in question was not the real Neymar, who is  a happy person who always has a smile on his face. He asked for forgiveness from his manager and his team-mates.

The next game, due on 22nd September was against bitter rivals Corinthians, the current league leaders. The club issued a statement that Neymar’s period of suspension was over, after one game. Dorival made it clear that he would not be picking Neymar for the Corinthians game and that his serious breach of discipline deserved a suspension of more than one game.

The Santos President Luis Alvaro de Olivera, solved the dilemma this created by sacking Dorival with immediate effect just hours before the Corinthians game. He claimed he was taking this action because of the indiscipline and stubbornness of Dorival in not accepting the club’s decision of a one game suspension.

Dorival seemed surprised by the decision but responded philosophically. Unrepentant, he claimed  “I  love Neymar like as son, but he made a mistake, a serious one . He needs to be properly punished for his mistake. The punishment may hurt the club in the short run but in the long run it will be in the best interest of the player.”

Neymar had the sense to make no comment. In fairness it should be stressed that he did not ask the club to chose between himself and the manager. The club’s President  made that ludicrous decision on his own. That night, Santos lost 3-2 to Corinthians. Neymar played well , and scored  a goal but could not help Santos prevent Corinthians extending their  lead at the top of the Brazilian Championship. The new Santos manager, temporarily promoted from the reserves stated that Neymar would be the side’s penalty taker if any were awarded.

GGW has no doubt that Santos missed a major opportunity to make a stand against inappropriate behaviour by a spoilt and immature young player. Dorival was absolutely right to decide as manager that he should have the right to punish a player who displayed such grossly inappropriate respect to him and his team mates. Such childish behaviour deserved a firm response. Goodness knows what wrong message the action taken by the Directors in sacking Dorival will give Neymar about his power and place within the club. And what quality manager will rush to offer to work for a President who has shown such total disregard for the importance of supporting the authority of the manager over the players?

So where will the events of the last 10 days leave the main protagonists?

Dorival with the memory of Santos’s sparkling football still fresh and with two trophies to his name already this year is unlikely to be out of work long. Sao Paulo, who recently sacked Ricardo Gomes and Atletico Mineiro who this week sacked Wanderley Luxemburgo , are both rumoured tohave  made him offers. It would have been fascinating to see whether he could replace Sao Paulo’s recent more European approach with the kind of South American flair he created at Santos. However he accepted the Atletico Mineiro offer and will be involved in a relegation tussle rather than a quest for more trophies.

It will be interesting to watch the impact of these events on the development of Neymar. GGW has been singing his praises all year in terms of his football abilities. He really is an exceptionally talented player. Even at his worst, in the Goias game, when he refused to pass to his teammates, his ability enabled him to hold onto the ball for significant periods of time. He would be a sensation in European football. Ancelotti knows this, knows he is an even better prospect than the young and talented Pato he nurtured at AC Milan. Chelsea tried hard to sign him this summer, without bidding anything like his true market value. The possible loss of such a talent became a major issue in Brazil with even the President Lula chipping in. Eventually he signed  a new contract with Santos but it is unlikely he will stay much beyond the first 50 million euro offer for him. Yet not every top manager will want to pay so much money for a youngster with so many questions marks against his personality rather than his talent.

It must be difficult for a young uneducated 18 year old to cope with both the money and the adulation he has already accumulated. He has been recorded telling team-mates he is a millionaire who can do anything he likes. He has been guilty of rash and indulgent behaviour on the pitch and examples of indiscipline off it.  Only yesterday he escaped with  a fine for  a bad-tempered assault on an opponent in a recent league game. The best prescription for him would have seemed to be  a manager who would nurture and develop his talent within a framework of firmness and respect for authority. That is exactly what Dorival was providing for him but even that was not preventing him indulge in immature, inappropriate and disgraceful behaviour. How a lesser coach will be able to control him, knowing confrontation will probably cost him his job, remains to be seen. Fortunately the one hope would seem to be that he has a father who is prepared to privately and publicly criticise his son for the inappropriateness of his behaviour.

Brazil no more for Neymar for now