Bruno Guimaraes looks out over the pristine pitch of an empty St James’ Park. Less than 48 hours ago he was in the thick of it, helping Newcastle win a third game out of four, and his name echoed through the floor as it often does.
“The best stadium in England and the best atmosphere in the Premier League,” he says heaven Sports. “When we play at home it’s always like playing when we were 12. The support is fantastic. It’s very difficult to play against us here with our fans so close to the field.”
Everton, beaten by a single goal on Wednesday night, are just the latest side to struggle. “It’s great for us,” smiles Bruno, “but not so great for our opponents.” Newcastle have lost just once in 15 Premier League home games since the turn of the year.
Bruno has of course played a huge role in that run, his £40m arrival from Lyon in January heralding a new era under the club’s Saudi owners. Newcastle, 18th when he joined, is now sixth, two points off the Champions League spots. The followers worship him.
“Yes, sometimes it can be difficult to leave the house because everyone recognizes me,” he says with a chuckle, his newly bleached hair making him stand out even more.
“But they’re always so kind, so loving, not just to me, but to everyone in my family: my wife, my father, my mother. The experience I had here was incredible.”
Worship is mutual. This becomes clear right after our interview, when Bruno meets a group of fans during a tour of the stadium on his way home to his heavily pregnant wife Ana and takes time to pose for photos.
He feels completely comfortable in his surroundings – “I feel at home,” he says – but the decision to come wasn’t easy for him.
“I think it was one of the most difficult decisions of my life,” adds the Brazil international, switching from Portuguese to English.
“Changing the country, changing the league, and that too in a World Cup year. It was a really tough decision, but I think it was the right one. I’m so happy. It’s an amazing step. I feel like a Geordie now.
“I’ve always dreamed of playing in the Premier League but honestly I never thought it could be this good. I’m proud of what I do, of myself and of the club, but it was a difficult decision.”
A difficult choice and also a difficult start.
After all the excitement that greeted his arrival in January, Bruno was looking at his first five Premier League games as a substitute, with manager Eddie Howe choosing to slowly introduce him.
“To be honest, when I started those games on the bench, I sometimes thought, ‘Oh my God, what am I doing with my life?'” says Bruno, laughing again. “No, no, I’m kidding. Of course staying on the bench is never easy, but I think Eddie made the best decision.
“It’s been good for adjusting to the club, to the Premier League and to getting to know my team-mates.
“Then, after that, when I started playing, it was like a dream.”
He made his full debut in a 2-1 win against Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium in March, with an outstanding performance and a daring finish with the heel for Newcastle’s second goal. He went on to score four more goals before the season was over.
“I think when Newcastle bought me some fans thought I was a number 9, but Newcastle bought a midfielder, a number 6 or a number 8,” he says, smiling.
“There was a lot of pressure because I was a Brazil international and I came to a team that was struggling to stay in the Premier League and not be relegated.
“But I think I was born to play in the Premier League. i love the atmosphere I love the intensity of the game. It is of course the most difficult league. There are no easy games. it makes you think you can play in any competition.
“I think that and the pressure when I came on helped me develop into the player I am now.”
And what a player. Jamie Carragher went on to describe him as a “complete midfielder”. Monday night soccer recently – “he reminds me of a Bryan Robson, a Peter Reid, a Roy Keane, a Patrick Vieira,” he added Sky Sports Pandit – and the stats certainly back it up.
Since his first start, Bruno has been second among all Premier League players for tackles and successful tackles, while only Bruno Fernandes, Leandro Trossard and Kevin de Bruyne have made more through balls. Bruno has dribbled more than Bukayo Saka and Heung-Min Son. Only Wilfried Zaha has conceded more fouls.
His combination of courage and guile was praised by both Keane himself and Carragher, one of the Premier League’s greatest central midfielders, who described Bruno as an “intelligent footballer” and “good character” who “knows what the game is about “. .
“Of course it’s always a pleasure to hear things like that,” says Bruno. “It’s another motivation, but this is only my first full season at Newcastle. There’s still a long way to go. I love playing here, I love interacting with the fans and I want to be a legend here.”
It’s no wonder Newcastle fans have taken him to their hearts and Bruno is giving similar treatment to recent transfer speculation linking him with Real Madrid. “It’s always nice when teams are watching you, but my plan is to just do my best in Newcastle,” he says.
“I’ll leave the rest to my agent. I’ve got three or four years left on my contract. It’s so long. I swear I’m not thinking about other things. My focus now is just Newcastle and the World Cup.”
Bruno is yet to secure a starting spot at Brazil but no player is more important to Newcastle and there is more evidence of how he has adapted to a role change this season by moving to base midfield, having previously played mainly played as a player had a No. 8.
I love playing here, I love interacting with the fans and I want to be a legend here
Which position does he prefer?
“To be honest, if you ask me that question, I have to say that I prefer playing 8th, but I think my role here at 6th is exactly what the team needs,” he says. “It’s about taking the ball out, making a couple of passes, finding the wingers and the forwards.
“I can play both positions but Eddie has to make a choice and for me the most important thing is just to play and help Newcastle get the three points. I think my best position is number 8, but I can play no 6. It’s not a problem for me.”
It helps, of course, that Newcastle’s system still allows him to get ahead. He scored twice in the recent 5-1 win against Brentford and there were also two assists, including the pass, on the edge of Everton’s penalty area which set up Miguel Almiron’s winner on Wednesday night.
“It’s nice because the way we play, Dan Burn is on the left, so he can stay in the middle and I can go and be another player to help the attackers. In the last game I had three chances to score. Unfortunately I didn’t, but I love playing as No. 6 or No. 8.”
He also loves playing for Howe.
“He’s like an English father to me. We have a great relationship. We talk about everything. I think I’ve improved my English a lot with him. He’s a good guy, a person I really enjoy working and being with with He is one of the best coaches in England.
“I think all the players love the way he works. The way he treats me is the same as the way he treats every boy from the academy who comes to us to train.
“I think it’s important to do that with all the players, not just Bruno, Callum Wilson or Allan Saint-Maximin, but also the youngsters.”
The approach has helped Howe foster a strong sense of togetherness among the players, with Bruno saying he embodies “the team spirit and drive” Newcastle need to thrive.
“We don’t have any jealous players here,” says Bruno. “Everyone wants the best for the team.
“All the players that come on the pitch know what they have to do to help the team when they need to keep the ball, when they need to win the ball back, whatever. I think all the players have the same goal. It’s one of the reasons we’re doing well.”
Bruno, of course, is another big reason himself, but he’s cautious when asked what the team can achieve this season. Does he see a Champions League finish as a possibility?
“It’s not impossible, but I don’t think we can aim for that,” he replies. “We have to think game by game because we know how difficult it is to play in the Premier League.
“We’ve got 28 games to go so we can’t put any more pressure on ourselves, you know? We’re doing well and I think we could be there. But what matters is our position at the end of the season. It’s nice that we’re going to do it.” good, but it’s just the beginning.”
Sunday’s trip to Tottenham will test Newcastle’s ambitions and there are new beginnings for Bruno too. In fact, his wife is already overdue as they await the birth of their first child.
“I hope it will be on Monday because I want to be there that day and I know we have a very important game at the weekend,” he says, smiling again. “I’m praying to God that he gives my son another two or three days in Ana’s tummy but I’m so excited. A dream becomes true.”
As it turns out, his son Matteo arrives just hours after our interview. “The best day of my life,” he wrote on Instagram when he announced the birth. Thanks to Bruno, Newcastle fans feel like they’re already living theirs.
Watch Tottenham v Newcastle live on Sky Sports Premier League on Sunday from 4pm; Kick-off 4:30 p.m