Neymar and Ganso jeered by own fans

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil newcomers Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso, linked with lucrative moves to Europe, were called mercenaries by Santos fans after Sunday's 1-0 defeat by Palmeiras in a Paulista championship clash.

Ganso, at 21 regarded as Brazil's likely playmaker when they host the 2014 World Cup, has turned down Santos' latest offers to renew his contract and is reported to be on his way to Serie A to play for one of the two big Milan clubs.

Teenager Neymar, already an automatic choice for Brazil, last year turned down an offer from English Premier League champions Chelsea and renewed his contract with Santos until 2014, but he did not escape fans' accusations at Santos' Vila Belmiro ground.

"It's a horrid moment with some fans calling me a mercenary. Some people don't know what they're saying. It's regrettable because last year I turned down millions of dollars from Chelsea to stay here," Neymar told reporters.

"I want to stay here all my life. I was raised here, I started with the juniors at 13. I'm happy here, it's a club I love but those fans insulting me is a downer."

After scoring both goals in Brazil's 2-0 friendly win over Scotland in London last weekend, expectations were high for Neymar's return to Vila Belmiro but he had a mediocre game and looked nervous.

He picked up a yellow card after less than 10 minutes for a violent foul on Kleber and escaped a red when he pushed an opponent with his hand in his face.

The normally clinical Ganso also had little contact with the ball and squandered Santos' best chance when he headed wide with the goalkeeper beaten.

Palmeiras coach Luiz Felipe Scolari can also take credit for the pair's poor game with his defence and counter-attacking tactics, Kleber scoring the winner 10 minutes from time when he pounced on midfielder Patrik's cross behind the Santos backline.

"Today was a key test, Santos have a very fast attack," said Palmeiras central defender Danilo.

"Our gameplan worked well and Santos didn't have room to pressure our last line. In the end they resorted to high balls into the box which is what we wanted."

Palmeiras lead the Paulista (Sao Paulo), the most important of the various state championships that open the Brazilian season, by one point from Sao Paulo, three from Corinthians and four from Santos.


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