Bruno Fernandes has been recalled by the man who brought him to Italy as a hard worker who hasn’t changed even as he stars for Manchester United, in an exclusive interview with Football Italia.
Mauro Borghetti is the former head of Novara youth sector and the person who, together with Javier Ribalta, scouted and signed Bruno Fernandes from Boavista in 2012. “We did a scouting job for Fernandes, we went to see the Boavista U19 squad playing that Saturday and he was the name we were following,” Borghetti tells Football Italia.
“He had the right age-range and the right potential cost, even if the fee was slightly beyond our means, around €40,000.
"It’s nothing if you think about the player he is today but at that time he was unknown player and signing him for that money was an important investment for a club like Novara. We took the responsibility.”
Fernandes left Novara to join Udinese the following summer for €5m, Novara’s most expensive sale ever. Borghetti recalled a player who stood out for his attitude as much as his ability.
Which qualities impressed you?
"He didn’t do great things in that game, but he was a footballer who showed great technical skills and vision. Above all, he had a great personality which is what distinguishes him now that he is playing football at top levels. As far as I know, we were the only club that wanted to sign him at that time and he immediately accepted our offer.”
How long did he take to settle in at Novara?
"He joined the Primavera (U19) team and he was living in our technical centre, Novarello. He did pre-season friendlies and official league games with the U19 squad but he had important qualities also off the pitch.”
“He worked hard, trying to learn Italian right away, he joined the group and was immediately welcomed because he was able to establish good relationships with his teammates. He had excellent relations with all the figures inside Novarello. Sometimes his mother or his girlfriend came to visit him. He was a person of some depth. Notoriety and celebrity haven’t changed him.”
Fernandes played his first game with Novara U19 team on October 2012 at Livorno and scored in his side’s 2-1 win. “At the beginning he was a little bit worried because he hadn’t been registered and he wanted to know when he could start playing,” says Borghetti.
“Within a few months he arrived in the first team. The U19 coach Giacomo Gattuso was promoted to senior squad in October to replace Attilio Tesser, who had been sacked. Giacomo took Bruno with him almost immediately then the coach returned to the Primavera team and [Alfredo] Aglietti was appointed Novara’s head coach three games later.
“Bruno didn’t follow Gattuso back in U19 and in the following six months he would score four Serie B goals,” the first professional goals of his career – despite playing as a more orthodox midfielder.
What was his position?
"He played in the middle of the field, mostly as mezzala but in some situations closer to the strikers. He had great qualities to play in the middle of the field. He is a little more of an offensive midfielder now, but he has qualities to play in every position in the middle of the park.”
Did he have any weaknesses?
“His skills are mainly technical and mental. He must have worked on his physical abilities, which were the only things below average. Not from an athletic point of view, he’s always had endurance and aerobic abilities. I speak of his structure. He turned 18 during the season he spent at Novara, he has now improved his physical structure.”
Are you surprised to see which level he reached?
"He has always raised the level in his career. Sincerely, what Bruno Fernandes has become today is a bit of a surprise to me. We understood that he was not a common footballer but here we are talking about one who plays in one of the most famous club in the world with results out of any kind of logic. He had the potential to do it, but to see what he’s become today is a bit of a surprise."
Do you still speak with him? What would you tell him today?
"I sometimes write to him to ask if he can send some messages for the guys who play here at Novarello and he is always available. Sometimes I text him after a goal or a good performance. Today, I would tell him to always keep that humility that has always distinguished him, he hasn’t changed and he shows it every time he makes himself available to me and to other people who knew him at the time of Novarello. That’s what has made him a great champion.”