Meet Bruno Guimaraes: The new Lyon hero who could wreck Ronaldo's Champions League hopes

Bruno Guimaraes Lyon
The January signing played a pivotal role in the French side's shock 1-0 win over Juventus in what was just his second game in European football

Amid the usual frenzied speculation, outrageous rumours and panic buyS of the January transfer window, one particularly interesting deal attracted suprisingly little attention.

Athletico Paranaense's Bruno Guimaraes was snapped up by Lyon for the sum of €20 million (£17m) right at the end of the month, when most activity had slowed down to a trot.

The 22-year-old had reportedly been of interest to Arsenal and Atletico Madrid but, ultimately, ended up at the Groupama Stadium, thanks primarily to Juninho Pernambucano, the Lyon sporting director and a legend in his native Brazil for his free-kick prowess.

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The transfer is already looking like a colossal coup as Bruno has wasted no time in turning heads across Europe, capping a dream start to life in Ligue 1 with his first-ever call-up for the senior Brazil team, which arrived at the weekend.

“Guimaraes had a great championship with Athletico Paranaense last year,” enthused coach Tite, who also included young Atletico and Real defensive pair Renan Lodi and Eder Militao in a new-look squad for Brazil's opening World Cup qualifying games against Bolivia and Peru.

“He has continued that form in the Under-23s and at Lyon and he has been consolidating and strengthening.”

The Selecao call-up was greeted with glee by his parents, who burst into tears while watching Tite's squad announcement press conference back in Rio de Janeiro.

Guimaraes' seemingly rapid rise to the Selecao has, in reality, been gathering steam for at least the last two years.

A Copa Sudamericana, Copa do Brasil and Parana state championship winner with Paranaense, Guimaraes also stood out in the 2019 Serie A campaign, earning a place in the league's Team of the Year as one of only two non-Flamengo players alongside the likes of Gabriel Barbosa, Felipe Luis and new Arsenal signing Pablo Mari.

It was in this year's Pre-Olympic tournament, though, that he really announced his potential.

Bruno Guimaraes Athletico PR 2019

Given the captain's armband ahead of the Colombia-based tournament, Bruno responded with a superlative campaign in the heart of midfield to see his side through to Tokyo 2020.

Brazil were unbeaten in seven matches and thrashed Argentina 3-0 in their last outing to seal passage to Japan, joining the Albiceleste as one of South America's two qualifiers.

Bruno's contribution was not measured in goals, but rather in the steady, calming influence he gives any team he represents, a trait recognised by organisers, who named him Player of the Tournament for his exploits.

Even so, having only linked up with his new Lyon team-mates halfway through February, he would have been forgiven for needing a period of adaptation to European football.

However, less than two weeks after arriving at l'Olympique and with just one game under his belt – an auspicious Ligue 1 debut against Metz – he was given a daunting examination of his top-level credentials.

Lyon coach Rudi Garcia put Bruno in the starting line-up for the Champions League last-16 first-leg clash with Cristiano Ronaldo's Juventus.

The Brazilian, however, proved he was up to the task, completely outclassing Miralem Pjanic and Adrien Rabiot in midfield and, with partner in crime Lucas Tousart, providing the solid foundation upon which Lyon shock 1-0 win was constructed.

Bruno was excellent defensively, with four successful tackles and three interceptions, but also in his distribution. He led his side with 44 completed passes on a night where quality – not quantity of possession – was the key for the underdogs.

In short, Bruno passed the test with flying colours in one of the biggest shocks of this season's campaign.

Mature beyond his years, Bruno has not been affected at all by going up against not only Ronaldo and Neymar's Paris Saint-Germain in recent weeks.

“I don't let myself get overcome with emotion, even if it is a unique feeling,” he told l'Equipe. “I grew up watching [Ronaldo and Neymar] play, I admired them, supported them and now I am against them, trying to steal the ball off them.

Bruno PS

“These are things I could not imagine up until recently. And, to be honest, I did not know how I would react."

He could not help but feel a little starstruck, though, telling reporters after the last-16 win: "When I went to shake Cristiano's hand I thought, 'Wow! He is real, human.' He is a great player."

Off the field, too, he has moved quickly to win fans' hearts, tattooing an enormous lion on his right arm in deference to his new club. They have responded by making him an instant terrace favourite, a status the youngster has enjoyed with every team he has graced to date.

Bruno is aware that his lightning ascent will not guarantee him a spot in the Selecao starting XI. Between him and the first team stands the daunting figure of Casemiro, long-time ruler of the Brazil engine room.

“I am not his rival, but I am competition. We are talking about a truly great player here,” Bruno added to l'Equipe.

"Casemiro has achieved so many things in Europe, he has won so much, whilst I am merely just starting out. I am here to leave my mark on Lyon, win titles and obtain the stature of a great player.”

With Arthur, Fabinho, Philippe Coutinho and Flamengo star Everton Ribeiro all similarly battling for room in Tite's midfield, Bruno might have to wait a little longer for regular game time.

But if he can keep up the heroics shown in these early few weeks at Lyon, it will not be long before he takes the Selecao by storm too.