Braziliant! Matheus Pereira’s sensational West Brom season

There is just something special about Brazilian footballers.

The Brazilian has shone both in the number 10 role and out wide for Albion since joining (AMA)
The Brazilian has shone both in the number 10 role and out wide for Albion since joining (AMA)

And Matheus Pereira is very, very, special.

It’s incredible to think that this time last year, hardly anyone had heard of Albion’s samba star.

Now, though, he must be one of the most in-demand players in the country.

And best of all, he’s going to join the Baggies in a permanent deal – for the bargain price of £8.25million.

The reason why this writer and Albion fans have fallen in love with Pereira is simple.

There are plenty of wonderfully gifted footballers out there to admire.

But Pereira is remarkably complete – he can do it all.

His eye for a pass is exquisite.

His close control exceptional.

And his ability to find space makes Albion tick.

But not only does he have all those wonderful qualities – he backs it up with numbers.

Before the 2019/20 season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Sporting Lisbon loanee had scored six goals and registered a whopping 16 assists in 33 games.

The Brazilian even battles and works hard – he simply could not be more suited to the English game.

There is a small part of all Albion fans who can’t quite believe the club managed to lure Pereira to The Hawthorns.

It was an unbelievable coup.

And for that, the Baggies – and Slaven Bilic in particular – deserve immense credit.

That credit is because Pereira actually arrived in England with something of a reputation.

Ability wise, he was never a risk.

This is a man who, while on loan at Nuremberg last season, won the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Year award.

To put that in perspective, the last three winners of the PFA Young Player of the Year award – the English equivalent – are Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Dele Alli.

And there was no way any of them were starting the 2019/20 campaign in the Championship.

The reason why Pereira was deemed a gamble – or why a bigger club than Albion didn’t move for him – was that he was viewed as high maintenance.

Prior to the 2018/19 season getting under way, Pereira took to social media to express his disbelief that he had been left out of the Sporting Lisbon squad for the opening game of the campaign.

His public outburst was the final straw for boss Jose Peseiro, who saw him as petulant.

And he was promptly shipped out on loan to Germany.

It was in the Bundesliga that Pereira learned the importance of working hard – with Nuremberg manager Michael Köllner making it clear he wouldn’t play if he didn’t carry out his defensive duties.

And that guidance has made him the well-rounded footballer he is today.

Pereira began to display his immense talent pretty much from the moment he arrived at The Hawthorns.

There was that fantastic free-kick at QPR – and controversial slit-throat celebration that followed.

There was that sensational goal against Cardiff, when Pereira played a lovely one-two with Grady Diangana before finding the bottom corner from 20-yards.

And then there was Swansea at home.

The word unplayable is often overused in football these days.

But that is exactly what Pereira was on that Sunday afternoon in December.

The Brazilian scored one and set up the other four in a truly incredible display as the Baggies ran out 5-1 winners.

It’s the best individual performance this writer has ever witnessed.

And those sentiments were echoed by other members of the press box – some of whom have over 30 years reporting experience.

It was on that day that Pereira was first compared to the great Laurie Cunningham by Albion’s fans.

There can surely be no greater honour and no greater insight into the effect he has had at The Hawthorns over the last nine months.

The day after football was suspended, Albion were due to play Birmingham in what was surely going to be fiery Midlands derby.

But the game was significant for another reason. It is highly likely the match would have marked the 30th league start of the season for Pereira.

And that would have triggered a clause meaning Albion would have had to transfer the payment in the deal they have agreed to sign Pereira on a permanent basis.

The fact that payment has yet to be made has led to some Baggies fans growing concerned the deal will not go through. But there is no need to worry.

Albion can sign Pereira whenever they want and have told Sporting they will send the cash on the final day of the Championship season.

That could be when they have completed their remaining nine games.

It could be next week if the EFL were to decide to end the campaign on sporting merit via points per game.

Either way, Pereira will become a permanent Albion player.

That’s because he is immensely talented. But it’s also because even if coronavirus is to change the financial landscape of football, Pereira will still be worth way more than the £8.25million Albion have agreed to pay.

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