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Bruno Fernandes didn't even look like a footballer when he first arrived at Italian side Novara Calcio, according to his former coach.
Mauro Borghetti brought the talented Portuguese midfielder to Serie B from Boavista for a reported fee of just €40,000 in the summer of 2012.
Fernandes, who had spent the majority of his youth career at the Estádio da Várzea, was thrown into the youth team by Borghetti and his coaching staff.
2012: Novara Calcio sign 18-year-old Bruno Fernandes for 40K€. pic.twitter.com/N1PeqYmY0r- Football Talent Scout - Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) February 1, 2020
But after just several weeks playing in the youth set-up, Fernandes' talent was there for all to see and he was swiftly promoted to the senior side, where he soon made a huge impression.
The midfielder didn't look like your typical footballer, though, according to Borghetti.
In an interview with Italian publication Gazzetta, the 52-year-old described a young Bruno as "humble" and "never banal" before pointing out he matured later than most. "When he arrived he didn't even look like a footballer," he added.
Fernandes' former coach at Novara Calcio believes it was his work ethic and overall demeanour that made him stand out amongst the rest.
"Above all, he had a great personality which is what distinguishes him now that he is playing football at top levels," Borghetti told Football Italia.
"As far as I know, we were the only club that wanted to sign him at that time and he immediately accepted our offer.
"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."
:flag_gb: 7 years #ThrowBack , one of my favorite goals in my career :soccer::dart: while playing for @NovaraChannel :flag_it: , missing football everyday but we got to stay safe! #StayHome pic.twitter.com/Pjk0HdIhKu- Bruno Fernandes (@B_Fernandes8) April 6, 2020
Borghetti continued, saying: "Sometimes his mother or his girlfriend came to visit him. He was a person of some depth. Notoriety and celebrity haven't changed him.
"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."
The teenager was eventually snapped up by Serie A side Udinese, just a year after arriving in Novara, and his stock continued to rise.
Things you probably forgot that actually happened in football:- Italian Football TV (@IFTVofficial) April 1, 2021
Bruno Fernandes on Udinese pic.twitter.com/vR1cWfmXSa
Spells at Sampdoria and Sporting CP followed before Manchester United came knocking and well, the rest is history.
He is now regarded as one of the best attacking midfielders in world football after another successful season at Old Trafford, where he scored 18 goals in 37 Premier League appearances.
Featured Image Credit: Portuguese Football Federation/Twitter
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