Brazilian will again wear the No 39 shirt in tribute to his father as his new side fight to avoid relegation
Bruno Guimarães barely had time to settle into his seat at St James’ Park and survey the sea of unfamiliar faces in front of him before the conversation turned to global domination.
“We’re going to be a big power in world football,” said Newcastle’s new £33.3m Brazil midfielder. “The owners were very up front that, this season, the idea is to stay in the Premier League but the main objective in the years to come is to be in the Champions League and, eventually, to win the Champions League.”
Some of those present may have looked a little doubtful but his optimism seemed infectious and it was not long before the 24-year-old was asked whether he regarded Newcastle as potentially a bigger club than Arsenal.
“Definitely,” said the former Lyon player, who was heavily courted by Arsenal. “It’s already a club with a great tradition, a big history. I have no doubts about my decision to come here. I believe in everything the owners told me about their project.”
If the diamonds adorning his watch caught the eye, his answers, transmitted through an interpreter, betrayed no sign of brashness. Granted, the player Eddie Howe hopes to build his side around appeared confident but there was also a certain modesty and a refreshing politeness.
After beginning by apologising, unnecessarily and in fairly decent English, for his lack of fluency in the language, Guimarães explained his attachment to the No 39 shirt he hopes to wear for the first time when Everton visit Tyneside for Tuesdays relegation six-pointer.
“My dad was a taxi driver for 20 years and No 39 was his taxi number,” he said. “So when I signed for my first professional club, Athletico Paranaense, he asked me to take his number for my shirt. It sustained my family when I was growing up and we won four league titles at Paranaense so it has also proved lucky for me on the pitch. I take it everywhere with me.”
An only child, Guimarães is close to his parents and, along with his girlfriend, they were on the private jet that brought him to Newcastle last week. “My family are everything,” he said. “I carry them with me everywhere. I have my mum and dad’s names tattooed on me.”
Newcastle need to build on their dismal record of two Premier League wins this season but the new boy appears undaunted by this challenge. Indeed, consultation with compatriots playing in England indicates Newcastle have been underachieving.
“Thiago Silva, Gabriel Jesus and Alex Telles have told me how difficult it is to play at Newcastle, given how passionate the fans are,” he said. “Their words meant I didn’t really have to think twice about coming here.”
Newcastle have spent more than £90m on five January signings and Guimarães will be seen as the principal catalyst, speeding the transition from a cagey counterattacking team to a more front-foot, possession-based side.
Happily a manager further bolstered by Dan Ashworth’s impending relocation from Brighton as technical director seems on a similar philosophical wavelength to his marquee signing. “I’ve always been inspired by two Spanish players, Andrés Iniesta and Xavi,” Guimarães said, before explaining that playing futsal while growing up in Rio de Janeiro accelerated a purist streak shared with Howe.
“I owe a lot to futsal. It’s the small space, you have to think quicker than others. With futsal your close control is so important and that’s something you’re going to see a lot in my games. I’m really happy with the legacy futsal gave me.”
Similarly life at Lyon provided some vital toughening up for a man proud to follow in the footsteps of Mirandinha, the first Brazilian to play professionally in England when he joined Newcastle in 1987. “There’s similarities between the Premier League and Ligue 1,” Guimarães said. “Ligue 1’s very physical, there’s a lot of contact so French football really prepared me for the physical battle ahead.”
Newcastle’s pursuit of Guimarães was aided by the presence of Cláudio Caçapa on Lyon’s coaching staff. From 2007 to 2009 the Brazilian made 29 largely nondescript, defensive midfield performances at St James’ Park. “I spoke a lot to him about coming here and he helped me in my decision.”