Features. Bruno Guimarães: 'Sometimes being angry is a good thing. But being happy is better'

Bruno Guimaraes
13 Dec 23
Read time
10 min

His mood is catching and you can see how it spreads. Bruno Guimarães dances into view, soundtracked by the music coming from his phone, to ask if he has time for a shower before we sit down to speak. He reappears 15 minutes later, not too appropriately dressed for a North Eastern winter, and is berated by a passing staff member who suggests he might need a coat over his beige jumper. "No!" he replies. "I am a Geordie!"

Tom Easterby
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Moments later, in the comfort and relative warmth of a glass-panelled meeting room in Newcastle United’s training centre reception, he has a rethink. Are you sure you don't need one? "No - I'm lying, I'm lying. I need," he laughs, that high-pitched chuckle of his. "I'm freezing."

These are joyous times for the 26-year-old. He is talking before Thursday's aberration at Everton and a similarly jarring loss at Spurs on Sunday and as such is untainted by those blips. In this moment, he only sees the good; the six-game streak of home league wins which he helped orchestrate, the prospect of a further run at the Champions League, the fulfilment of ambitions. His glass is half full.

"It's true. I feel very good. I signed a new contract with the club, I'm happy," he says. "There are happy moments in my personal life as well - with another baby coming - so I am living what I was dreaming to live. The dream came true for me. I'm very happy - very happy in the city, my family, my dad, mum, everyone. I think I'm showing it on the pitch when I have to play. I think I'm playing well. I'm happy and I hope to keep going."

The will-he-won't-he contract saga was one of the early-season talking points on Tyneside. "We spoke for I think three or four months. It was good - it was good for me, it was good for the club, everyone is happy. I think Eddie (Howe) was very happy with me signing a new contract. Everyone, the fans too. I wanted a new one as well, so it was good for everyone. I feel like a Geordie. Happy, happy, happy moment. I just want to play football, to play here, to play for the shirt. There are a lot of exciting games to come, so it's a very good moment to be a Newcastle fan now."

As much as that may be true in a general sense the last few months have brought bumps, mostly on the road. In the Parc des Princes, a ground Guimarães enjoyed playing at in his time at Lyon, things ended sourly when Kylian Mbappé netted a stoppage time spot-kick after Tino Livramento was penalised for handball. He winces at the mention of Paris. "Ah," he shakes his head. "We gave everything to get three points." It was a reminder of the modern game's unforgiving tendencies, among other things.

The 'group of death' reaches its expiration tonight with the visit of AC Milan but the Magpies are still in contention to advance from Group F. In Guimarães' two years on Tyneside there have been plenty of occasions that have gone perfectly for him at home. The 4-1 dismantling of Paris Saint-Germain in October was one, a night where he felt "like the 12th man was on the pitch". The outcome coupled with a high, hanging assist spared him the wrath of Dan Burn, who initially fumed at him taking on a shot just prior to that cross ("I passed to him! He should be happy! He scored with my pass! He should be very happy!").

But at this fork in the road there is a feeling that Newcastle will not want to end up clutching the memory of a win, albeit a famous one at St. James' Park, but one that becomes inconsequential if they do not make it through to the knockout stage. Guimarães feels there is a certain unquantifiable magic about the old ground. "I think for me, St. James' Park makes everything feel possible. Since I've been here there has been some games where we were not good enough, and the fans were behind us and they stuck with us to the win. The atmosphere of the stadium makes everything feel possible. I think we can go through.

"It is a very good moment for us to play in our home. (To have the) last game in the group stage at home is unbelievable, when we have a big chance to through. I think everyone is very excited about it - fans, owners, players. We can't wait to go there and live this moment together."

Guimarães often repeats his assertion that he knows what the club means to supporters. The thought is grounded in the time he has spent engaging with different parts of the local community. In March, he attended one of Newcastle United Foundation’s disability sessions at their home NUCASTLE, powered by Newcastle Building Society, to mark World Down Syndrome day. He threw himself into the session and the participants responded in kind. "It's so amazing, so amazing. When they scored - we played football together and they scored - they did the same celebration as me, and it was special.

"The people see me like a hero for them. I’m not. I'm just a person, a player. The heroes are doctors, medicals, everyone there. I'm just a professional player. But I understand them. When I was young my dream was to be like (Zinedine) Zidane, Ronaldinho, so I understand they have their heroes. It makes me feel like a special person. It's an unbelievable feeling."

The Foundation's logo has adorned the back of United's Champions League kits this season. "I think it's very important, very important for the guys. I think it's a sign of the city growing up together, as a team, as people. It's important to help the people who really need help. I think the Foundation is doing an amazing job and I'm happy every time when they call me to do something for them, I will always be happy to go because I know how it is important. I have a charity I help in Brazil as well, at the end of the year, for Christmas, for New Year. This means a lot for me, and I think for the club it is a big thing."

His father, Dick, accompanied him that day, as he often does when visiting his son. It is still amuses Guimarães that his dad commands a degree of celebrity status in his adopted city. "Of course he did some pictures when I was in Lyon, Atletico (Paranaense), my club in Brazil, but here, it's crazy. My mum sometimes says, 'why do they ask for photos with him, not for me?'" His face creases with laughter. "A little bit jealous, you know?!" And again. "It's funny, it's funny.

"But it shows how people are kind here, with my family, with my wife, with my son. Everyone at the game will say, 'oh, this is Bruno's son, this is Mateo, oh, he's so big!' The people are very nice with me, my family. It is one of the reasons why I signed a new contract and one of the reasons why for me it feels like home, even if I’m 12, 13 hours from my home. It's unbelievable what they have done for me since I signed for the club. To be honest I wasn't expecting it. I wasn't expecting it."

In the final game of last season, at Stamford Bridge, Dick was mobbed. "The security guys of Chelsea were taking my dad off, because everyone in the crowd wanted to take  a picture with him! It was a very crazy moment. He was like…" Guimarães pants and wheezes. "He couldn't breathe with all the people around him!" Has anyone ever asked you to take a photo of them with your dad? "Ah!" he grins. "It has never happened but one day it will. I'm sure if it stays the same way it will."

Dick's level of local fame would have seemed improbable when the family lived in Vila Isabel, at the extremities of the Maracanã's shadow. Guimarães grew up supporting Vasco da Gama, who would occasionally play there. As a Brazil international, a regular member of the Seleção, he plays there now and he still wonders at the momentousness of it all.

"My house was five minutes', ten minutes' walk from Maracanã, so every game there I went to with my friends because (if you were) less than 12 years old you could go in the match and not pay. I've been to Maracanã many, many time in my life," he says. "The last game we played there. Unfortunately we lost against Argentina. But for me personally it was a very good moment, playing at the Maracanã. I bought more than 200 tickets… two, zero, zero? Two hundred?" He checks his own numerical translation. "Two hundred tickets. A lot of friends, family, everyone in the stadium. It was a very good feeling for me. I felt like, 'oh my gosh, you got it, Bruno – you really got it, man!'"

That is quite the order for a very large family. He nods. "Family, friends, uncles, cousins. My mum has I think six brothers, six sisters, so I have like 20 cousins - I have a lot of cousins. I spent a lot of money to get those tickets!" He smiles. The Maracanã has been redeveloped a number of times in recent decades but "it's still class. It's the best stadium in Brazil. I think it is like your Wembley. Everyone dreams to play there. It was so close to my house, I'd been there many, many times… my family, they cry a lot when I go to the stadium before the game starts."

It has seemed apparent for some time that Guimarães is a player suited to the rigours of the highest level. He was a Champions League semi-finalist with Lyon in 2020, in an empty stadium and unable to feel the "truth of the Champions League". When he joined Newcastle in January 2021 he spoke about wanting to play in that competition again ("everyone says, 'you are ******* crazy!'") Many things seem very different now. "Oh, a lot. Many things changed my life. Personal life, career, playing more often for national team, one son, my wife's pregnant again, wedding, oh my gosh – many things changed my life. I feel now more responsible! For me, I can't describe how much this has impacted my career, my personal life. Things in two or three years change a lot," he says. "It's growing up, it's dreams coming true, it's exactly what I wanted when I was young. Now I have everything here in the club. It's unbelievable."

A point of debate around his otherwise slick and steely game has been his temperament. Is it easy for him to balance his emotions, to keep a grip on his anger when it surfaces? "No, it's not easy. Sometimes I lost my head and I cannot, I cannot. But I think I'm doing better now. When I was younger I used to be more angry. But now I think my son is helping me more!" In calming you down? "In calming me down. Sometimes being angry is a good thing. But being happy is better. You have to find a way to balance it."

His parents would help him keep control when he was a child, even though there were a few red cards waved his way back then. He points out he has only been dismissed once in his career, in last season's Carabao Cup semi-final second leg at home to Southampton. He feels he needs to hold on to a bit of that jagged edge. "I love to compete. I have the desire, I have the passion, and I think people like players with passion, even if sometimes I have to control my emotions. But it's normal, it's normal. I think it's better this way, to show that we really care, than (be) a player who is not running, who doesn't care. I think my way is better. But I will find a way!"

He is laughing again. Perhaps the cacophony of a bubbling St. James' brings out his best traits while also sprinkling in an element of danger. His geeing up of fans has become a 'thing'. "This I do since I was kid, seven or eight years old. I'm just like, 'YEEEEAAAH'," he yells in a quite immersive rehashing of the real thing. "I like to celebrate as I go. Because in my number six, I'm not able to score a lot, so for me when I get the ball it's like a goal for me, when I'm defending also. I like to celebrate this, show the passion that I have for playing football. It's the moments that give me confidence. I get confidence doing it."

He says he does not get tired in home games and attributes that to the fans. "I could do 12, 13 kilometres per game and I will be right. I just want to get them three points and go home happy, (and have) drinks, because they like (that) a lot," he chuckles. Fear comes into it too. "I think, like, 'oh, we cannot let them down. We have to do something to win, to figure out a way to get the three points, or just give our best', because our best is enough for them, you know?"

Big games are coming but it is Newcastle United's responsibility to ensure that big games do not get away from them. There is an FA Cup tie at Sunderland to look forward to - and Guimarães says he is - but this midweek match against Milan will shape much of what the rest of their season looks like. There have been injuries, there have been defeats, but there has to be a path leading on from here. Which way that goes is largely up to them.

"Before starting the Champions League, we think, 'we have to go through, we have to go through'," adds Guimarães. "Not depend only on us, of course, but we have to do our part. We have to go here, play well, and in the end we will see it if we get it or not.

"We could be better if at the end of Paris it was 1-0 for us - we know what happened, but that has passed. We have to be very focused in this game against AC Milan. It's the game of our lives."

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