Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes

Bruno: The heroes who made me who I am

Sunday 15 November 2020 22:30

Bruno Fernandes's endearing ability to smile on the pitch, and fierce determination to deliver his best, may well be natural gifts but they could also be evidence of two huge idols when he was an aspiring young footballer.

In his riveting UTD Podcast, available here from 17:00 GMT on Monday, the creative Manchester United midfielder cites a pair of players who operated in different areas of the team - Brazil legend Ronaldinho and Bruno's compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo - as being key influences in his formative years. Hearing him talking passionately about both icons, you begin to think about the attributes he might have borrowed from them and brought into his own game.

"When I grew up, the first player I really liked to watch was Ronaldinho," reveals Fernandes, during the 70-minute episode. "He had this kind of magic that nobody else had.

“He went everywhere with a smile on his face. He’d take a tackle and still be smiling. He'd give a nutmeg and have a smile on his face. If he won, he had a smile on his face. Even if he lost, he had a smile on his face. He was just the sort of player you enjoy watching. That was really important for me when I was growing up because when you are a kid, you have to enjoy your football. And when you watched Ronaldinho, you understood what it means to enjoy football.”
Brazil icon Ronaldinho was Fernandes's first football hero.
The next star to capture Bruno's imagination had a similar name, but it was a grimace of sadness, rather than a fun-loving grin, that first made Fernandes sit up and take notice of Ronaldo's football journey.

"When Cristiano began to take his first steps in the national team, it was in the Euros (2004) in our home country (Portugal), so I was nine years old," recalls Bruno.

"That year stays with everyone because we lost the final and we saw him crying afterwards. He was a young boy who was starting to shine and from there I started to watch him.
"It was the way he worked every day, the mentality he had, the capacity he had to give 100 per cent in every game at a high level. For me it was like a motivation, like you always have to do better. He was scoring goals every game, but he was still trying to improve. My mentality comes a little bit from understanding what sort of player you want to be.

“Do you want to be that player who has a good season, and maybe then goes up and down, or do you want to be the player who always wants to be at the top? Okay, you will have bad games for sure, everyone has. Cristiano has had bad games but the point is [how you] come back from a bad game. The mentality is 'I didn’t play well in that last game and I really need to do well in this one.' The mentality to do better day after day is really important for me.”

While Ronaldinho and Ronaldo have both been attacking artisans, it's slightly further back where Fernandes has forged a reputation for pulling strings and creating goals, as well as occasionally netting them himself. In that area, he turns to a different trio of players - legends of Spain, Italy and France - as sources of inspiration.

“I can say there are three players in my position who I appreciate a lot,” says United's no.18. “One of them is Andres Iniesta - for me he is the best one, the one I like most.
Andres Iniesta in action for Barcelona, against United's Michael Carrick, in the 2011 Champions League final.
"The other two are Andreas Pirlo and Zinedine Zidane. Pirlo started out as a no.10, then he started to move back to become a no.6, and I think my career will be a little bit like this! I hope not, because I prefer to play as a no.10, but every coach I’ve had in the past, they’ve all said the same – you will be a great no.6. I don't know, I prefer to be a no.10 because I’m closer to the goal, I’m closer to assist my team-mates and I like to play there, but Pirlo was a player who improved in all positions.

“Pirlo played as a no.10, then he played as a no.8 and he improved, then he played as a no.6 and he improved. He was always good, he’s that kind of player. You look at him and his hair is always in the same place – and he has big hair, it’s impossible! He has that class, he has something different to everyone else.
Zinedine Zidane and Andrea Pirlo were on opposite sides in the 2006 World Cup final.