TugaScout is an English-language site reporting on matters associated with Portuguese football by freelance writer Alex Goncalves, offering the latest news, reviews and opinions surrounding the Portuguese League and the Seleção players based abroad.

A closer look at Bruno Fernandes

A closer look at Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes is on the verge of completing a move to the English Premier League.

One of the two best-performing Portuguese players of last season alongside Bernardo Silva, Fernandes had a better campaign than the likes of young starlet João Felix, who is set to complete a 120 million euro move to Atletico Madrid, top-performing right backs João Cancelo and Ricardo Pereira - and even outperformed Cristiano Ronaldo.

But those that are not accustomed to the Portuguese game may not be too familiar with the attacking midfielder - so here we give a brief overview of what fans of English football can expect.

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Strengths of his game

An intelligent footballer, Bruno Fernandes has a tremendous footballing brain, which ultimately allows him to regularly makes the correct decisions and ensures that he can best exploit the opposition’s defensive weaknesses.

One major attribute that Fernandes possesses is his long-range shooting and passing ability. A number of times Bruno Fernandes came up with the goods for Sporting - and often it was due to some impressive goals from around the edge of the box.

He’s a big-game player who single-handedly earned Sporting about 15 points last season. He may need a chiropractor after last campaign having carried Sporting for so long - one can only imagine where they would have finished in the league standings if it weren’t for him and his goals and assists.

Fernandes has also shown excellent instincts and attacking movement, able to get in between the lines and find pockets of space to get into optimal positions to receive the ball.

This ensures that he’s a real focal point in attacking moves, collecting the ball before lifting his head and either running at the opposition or picking out a teammate with his vision and passing ability.

What position does he play?

Bruno Fernandes has shown a lot of versatility over the last couple of seasons in Portugal. Undoubtedly his most productive spells have come from playing just off the striker in that attacking midfield role. It is from here that he has been able to get most actively involved in the team attacks and bag goals and assists in abundance.

Indeed, by operating in that number 10 role, he gains the freedom to roam about and expose gaps in the opponent’s defense, gaining the license to move out wide when necessary to collect the ball and try and spring off the opposition’s defensive line to break the offside trap.

That said, Fernandes is also very capable of operating further back in a deeper startign position and has shown that he’s willing and capable of putting in a shift defensively too. In that central midfield role, he still shows that attacking intent and willingness to carry the ball and instigate attacking moves, but he is always willing to track back and defend with the team when necessary.

Indeed, for his country, as you may have seen during the UEFA Nations League finals, he operated in that deeper central midfield role, where he was slightly more restricted in his freedom, as well as required to do more of the defensive work, but he still showed himself to be a very accomplished footballer in that role, capable of carrying out both sides of the game.

Sporting fans reaction to him leaving

They are not even remotely surprised to see him departing. This always seemed inevitable, although that doesn’t mean they’re not devastated about it. In what was, in the end, a very good season for the club, he was the man that often dragged them across the line on numerous occasions.

Whenever they were struggling and needed to be bailed out, he was more often than not the man that popped up with the goals. He scored in every round of the Portuguese Cup leading up to the final, for example, including a crucial late long-distance strike against arch-rivals Benfica in the semi-final as he led Sporting to glory in the biggest cup competition in the country.

As stated before, his presence gained Sporting about 15 or so extra points last season, and without him, you can be confident that Braga would have likely ended up finishing above them.

He will be virtually impossible to replace, and it could be a testing season for Sporting next campaign without him.

Lots of talk about Joao Felix – but was Bruno the best player in the Primeira Liga last season?

So much is said about the 19-year old star that is Joao Felix. And he’s a tremendous talent with a highly exciting future ahead of him. But he wasn’t the best performer in the Portuguese top flight last season - for me, he wasn’t even the best performer at Benfica. That honour surely has to be given to Rafa Silva, who was immense all campaign.

But, as excellent as both Felix and Rafa were, the fact of the matter is Bruno Fernandes’ contribution and necessity to Sporting was second to none, and you don’t have to look any further than his statistics to see that. 53 matches, 32 goals and 18 assists across all competitions, it’s an absurd return, and he was far and away the top-performing player in the 2018-19 Primeira Liga season.

Is he worth the money?

A Portuguese international recently said that, if it were up to him, he wouldn’t be paying 120 million euros for Joao Felix - he’d be paying it for Bruno Fernandes instead. And you can understand why.

There have been many numbers thrown about as to how much Fernandes will ultimately end up costing, but ultimately, if he ends up being acquired for £60million, it has to be considered successful business, particularly in today’s market where every player commands a heavily inflated price tag.

At the end of the day, Fernandes is an offensive player and still just 24 years of age. Players of his calibre, age and position will typically require fees exceeding 100 million euros in the modern game - but because he’s from the Portuguese league, he will likely go for less. And that’s good business for whoever ends up bringing him in.

Will he be a success in the Premier League? Suited to the Premier League?

His game and style is suited to any league in the world. The question is more ‘will he be able to cope with the step up?’ And that is perhaps a little more difficult to answer.

However, he’s not only a technically gifted footballer who has experience in both Portugal and Italy, but he’s also a great professional; one thing that you can say about Portuguese players in general is that they are, because of how they are educated from a very early age in the academies, level-headed individuals, and their mentality is one of their major strengths.

It is actually one of the major secrets behind the national team’s recent success. The player’s have excellent professionalism, even from a very young age. And Bruno Fernandes is no different. He’s passionate on the field, but also a great leader, composed and calm, professional, and that will work in his favour.

The old-fashioned suggestion for players like Bruno Fernandes is that they don’t have the physicality for the Premier League, but that myth has very much been dispelled by so many other similarly slender, technically gifted players, so that shouldn’t be a problem for Bruno Fernandes either. All signs suggest this will be a really shrewd acquisition for any side.

Bruno Fernandes. Photo author: Антон Зайцев.  License link .

Bruno Fernandes. Photo author: Антон Зайцев. License link.

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