Being a bit of a Brazilo-phile I was over the moon when Newcastle signed a Brazilian No.9 from Hoffenheim. Excitedly, I perused the Brazilian news sites and YouTube channels to see how big a splash this massive £40m move was making over in his home country.

Hardly a ripple, as it turned out. With the entire national squad plying their trades abroad, along with a plethora of stars at Europe’s top clubs, there isn’t the time or desire to report on every player and every transfer.

So why would the sale of a young, uncapped centre forward from the unfashionable North East of Brazil to a lacklustre, struggling side in the unfashionable North East of England cause a stir in Brazil? It wouldn’t.

Then we hit January 2022. Joelinton had transfigured from the league’s worst striker to the league’s best volante.  Howe had turned around the culture and fortunes of the club, and incoming signings had added experience, skill and quality to an improving side.

We’d also somehow snatched *the* future superstar of Brazilian football.  The signing of Bruno suddenly caught the attention of the Brazilian press.

His qualities were never in doubt in Brazil, and with him playing alongside his fellow international (and best friend and fellow Carioca) Lucas Paqueta, his place in the seleção was never in doubt. You’d think, therefore, that signing for NUFC would have been scoffed at. On the contrary: as football news show, Show de Bola, put it, “He’s leaving Lyon to play in the hardest league in the world, and, just a detail, his new team is fighting to leave the relegation zone. He’s left France for England, and there, they aren’t talking about anything else.”  The emphasis definitely placed on the boldness of the move.

With the arrival of Bruno, the Brazilian press corps suddenly realised he was joining fellow Brazuca, Joelinton.  From practically zero interest, Joelinton was now gaining column inches and praise in equal measure. Media giant, O Globo, began publishing regular pieces on our new Midfield enforcer.

For the sake of transparency, I love Joelinton. I was always reluctant to criticize him during the Bruce mess. Whenever I did, it was with a heavy heart. I always saw a man who never shied away. He knew he was getting stick from the stands, on social media and in the press but he put himself out there week after week. He has the heart of a lion and, for me, is an absolute warrior. Nobody of a B&W persuasion was happier to see his fortunes so utterly transform.

The fickle Brazilians had cottoned on and were taking notice. In his normal, humble, style, the huge headline that accompanied a major piece on the O Globo Esporte site was typical: “I play in the best league, but I don’t forget how it started.”’  The piece explores Joelinton’s role under Bruce and how Howe has reinvented his career, ‘He changed position to command the midfield at Newcastle United and became a Premier League sensation.’

UOL (the Brazilian AOL) site reflected on Joelinton’s improved relationship with the fans in their March analysis of the player. “How Joelinton Transformed Curses to Music at the Richest Club In the World.” Our No.7 talks about how hard it was to be the focus of fans’ frustrations but how happy he is to hear us singing his song. ‘The song goes beyond the confines of the stadium. For the last month it has been sung in the city post-match, in the train station, and when the fans return to their homes.’

Joelinton goes further: “[I got] Abuse in the stadium, curses, off-field things like that. Mean messages that cross the line… You have family, kids. They were messages that aren’t worth remembering. Things in the past. Today, [the messages] … are a motivation for me to hear them [the fans] sing, give me energy, you know?”… “They start singing when I steal the ball, make a play. It’s really cool.”

I think it’s important to note he NEVER criticizes the fans. He talks about difficult moments and how hard it was – but there’s never any bitterness. That was in the past, this is now.

Obviously, Bruno attracts a lot of attention. He told the podcast ‘Gringolândia’ that he knew NUFC was a risk, “It was a risk, but I also believe in the project. The fans have a passion for the team that is very different” and he believes that if the team is strengthened we could push for Champions League or Europa League spots.

By far the best interview I’ve seen with nossos craques (our crack [players]) was with ESPN Brasil’s London-based journalist, João Castelo-Branco shortly after Bruno’s arrival. João asks if Joelinton has been a good host, “Whey, Joelinton’s been geet like me fatha, like” says Bruno (OK, maybe a bit less Geordie than that.)

Joelinton chips in, “It’s always great to be with another Brazilian, who speaks your language, knows your culture. It’s great to have Bruno here.” And Bruno , brimming, “The fans already liked having one Brazilian here, now they’ve got two. We see Brazil flags in the stadium, shirts with photos of his [Joelinton’s]  face on them, (Wor) flags for both of us in the stadium…”, so much so that Joelinton reckons, “If it wasn’t for the weather, I’d think I was playing in Brazil.”

Talking of Brazil, there have been posts and videos from podcasts popping up throwing Joelinton’s name into the hat for the Qatar squad. Something no-one could have envisaged back in December. But who knows, maybe the famous black and whites will be represented by 2 players in ‘a seleção brasileira’.

And if Bruno gets his way, “Lucas Paquetá to Newcastle would be a dream, unfortunately that’s not my job.”

It’s clear. They are happy here, they have bought into the project, they trust the manager, and, and I cannot stress this enough, they are relishing playing in front of you: they’re feeling the love.

NEWCASTLE PRA CIMA!

JOHN MILTON  – @Geordioca