Perhaps he learned that in those years he spent among the game’s lesser lights: one at Novara, three at Udinese, one at Sampdoria. By the summer of 2017, when he returned to Portugal — as the second-most-expensive signing in Sporting’s history — he had still not received a call-up to Portugal’s national team (though he had captained its under-21 side). His arrival was not heralded as a coup. “Most of the big teams had not seen much of him,” Martelinho said.
And yet, within just a few months, it was obvious what Portugal had been missing. “The Portuguese league is not as strong as England, Spain or Germany,” Martelinho said. “But it is maybe the fifth- or sixth-best league in Europe. It is not easy. Bruno made it look easy.”
His impact in England has been no less swift. It is not yet 12 full months since he arrived at Old Trafford, yet he has already been voted into one Premier League team of the season, and, with his team emerging as contenders to end a seven-year wait for a championship, he would rank among the leading candidates to win this campaign’s player of the year award.
And yet if his rise seems rapid, it is anything but. Fernandes has had to wait for this moment. Not through any fault of his own, but through a flaw in soccer’s structure, through its inability to look for talent in unexpected places. This was the player he always was, and always could be. It just took the game a while to notice, and all because he needed to take a bus, all those years ago.
I’ve been intrigued for a while by why it took Bruno Fernandes so long to make it big in an era of industrial-scale talent recognition.
It turns out he’s not a late bloomer, it’s that sometimes football doesn’t see talent if it’s in the wrong place. https://t.co/9Bewr7L8Zz
— Rory Smith (@RorySmith) January 15, 2021