Matheus Pereira bringing Samba style to West Brom
He has brought flair, creativity and goals to Albion all the way from Brazil.
Matheus Pereira is the man all Baggies fans are talking about following his breathtaking start to the season.
The 23-year-old, who has netted two goals in his last three games, has put in a number of majestic displays to help inspire Slaven Bilic’s side to the top of the Championship.
Snapped up on loan from Sporting Lisbon in the summer, Pereira has taken no time at all to adapt to English football.
And the number 10, who always plays with a huge smile of his face, believes there are a host of reasons why he has settled so quickly – with Slaven Bilic a major factor.
“Oh man – he’s sick,” Pereira told Albion's official programme when asked about his head coach. “He is the man. I love the way he passes on his messages to the players.
“Sometimes people think I don’t understand him, but I understand everything he says.
“It pours out of his soul. In football, you can feel the soul of a person and you can feel his soul bleed for the club, for his players, for the supporters.
“You can hear it in him without having to understand his words. That’s how I feel.”
While his goals have been spectacular, it’s Pereira’s all-round game that has got Albion fans excited for the season ahead.
Whether it’s going on mazy dribbles, playing unbelievable through-balls, or delivering dangerous set-pieces, the trickster has shown it all.
But the Brazilian has also made it clear he isn’t afraid to get stuck in and sacrifice his attacking instincts for the good of the team – something he did particularly well in the draw at Fulham.
And he admits he always felt he would be suited to the physical nature of the English game.
“When you play in the streets of Brazil and you’ve got a gang of kids trying to kick you off the ball, you learn how to look after yourself and keep the ball,” he said. “The greatest memory I have is playing football in the streets.
“As you know, in Brazil, that is a big part of the culture.
“They play football in the streets and use their sandals or shoes for goalposts.”
Despite being just 23 years old, Pereira has already played football in four countries. But what is striking about the forward is his desire to be the best he can be – with everything in his life tailored around football.
“I’m sure Birmingham is very nice, but my life here is like anywhere,” he continued.
“It’s a professional footballer’s life.
“I get up, I get in the car, drive to the training ground, go home, eat right, rest right, get up and do it all again until the day I drive to the stadium.
“Everything in my life is about preparation to play.
“You don’t really get the chance to go sightseeing.
“I have been to a shopping mall which seemed nice and a couple of nice restaurants. I’ve been to a few places around town, but football doesn’t allow you to have a normal life. It really is work, rest, eat, sleep and then repeat.”
Pereira experienced both the highs and lows of football during a loan spell at FC Nurnberg last season.
Individually he shone and was named the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Year.
But Nurnberg finished bottom of the division and were relegated.
Pereira though says he learnt an awful lot from the experience. And he believes it also toughened him up ahead of playing during the English winter.
“The cold? I played in Germany last year and this should be a walk in the park compared to that.
“It seemed to be snowing every week. But the Bundesliga was a fantastic experience. It’s very fast paced, and you play in a great stadium every week, always packed, great atmosphere.
“You play some of the best teams in Europe – Bayern Munich, Monchengladbach, Schalke, Borussia Dortmund.”
On his Rookie of the Year award, Pereira added: “It made me feel like it was a reward for all the hard work I put in.
“It was very satisfying to get that recognition from the league itself.
“Obviously, you are always working for the team. That comes first.
“But individual recognition is fantastic.
“And I do work hard. For me, preparation is everything.
“To play in the Championship, it’s a long year and I have to prepare myself for whatever may happen.
“Everything is a challenge so it’s always preparation, preparation.
“To be strong to be ready. For me, I focus totally on everything I can do to make myself better.”