Slaven Bilic: West Brom star Matheus Pereira won’t be beat by rough stuff
Slaven Bilic says Matheus Pereira is still enjoying his football despite the rough treatment he is receiving.
But Albion’s head coach believes it’s important to highlight the late and off-the-ball challenges the Brazilian is having to endure.
Pereira has been a revelation since joining the Baggies on loan from Sporting Lisbon in the summer, with his eye-catching displays seeing him become a marked man in the Championship.
And in recent weeks, teams have done whatever they can to stop him with the 23-year-old having been the victim of a number of off-the-ball challenges when the referee hasn’t been looking.
Bilic was asked what can be done to help protect his talented number 10.
And the head coach believes highlighting the issue in the media is the best way to bring attention to the rough treatment Pereira is receiving.
“What can I do?” Bilic said. “It’s more what you (the media) can do than me.
“But what is happening is part and parcel of football, it happens to good players.
“He likes to keep the ball, sometimes he likes to keep it a bit longer and that gives opponents a chance to get to him, to foul him.
“He’s the kind of player that when he’s your player, the crowd loves him.
“When he’s an opposing player, the opposing crowd they hate him.
“But he’s enjoying it and he’s enjoying life here also.”
Albion have the option to buy Pereira permanently for £8.25m.
That deal will be completed in the future with the Brazilian having already agreed personal terms for his permanent transfer.
And Bilic admits even he has been surprised at how quickly Pereira – and fellow new recruit Filip Krovinovic, who is on loan from Benfica – have settled into life at The Hawthorns.
“Somebody mentioned the other day how extraordinary it is that a few of the guys have settled so quickly,” the head coach continued.
“A very experienced guy at the club, the kit man, said it’s amazing.
“He said he’s seen some really top players coming into this league and they needed six months to gel.
“But we have Filip Krovinovic and we have him (Pereira).
“On paper, they don’t belong, they are different players in the Championship or even Premier League.
“But they’ve gelled straight away, not only on the pitch but also off the pitch.
“The guys help them of course, we have a good group of players for that.
“But it is a bit of a surprise, yes.
“It helped them, though, because we won the first game.
“You know, when you win the first game and results are good, that makes it easier for them to settle also.”
Bilic believes being in the best possible shape is helping Pereira cope with the physical nature of the Championship.
“Pereira is in the gym every day after the training,” Bilic added. “Nobody would expect that from a Brazilian No10. He does it every day to keep his fitness and look after himself. That’s the key.”