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Andreas Pereira shining at Fulham

last updated Friday 24th February 2023, 4:32 PM

Fulham Football Club
Fulham Midfielder Andreas Pereira
Fulham Midfielder
Andreas Pereira
Andreas Pereira
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"Andreas has all the attributes to become an integral part of the first team."

That quote came from then-Manchester United manager Luis Van Gaal almost eight years ago, stood alongside a Brazilian teenage dynamo with the world at his feet.

Andreas Pereira had already been at Old Trafford for four years. United had beaten off competition from many of Europe's other elite sides to sign him from PSV as a 15-year-old.

It appeared their faith had proven well-founded with a meteoric rise capped off by a first-team breakthrough in 2014/15, and the club's U21 Player of the Year award. Now, they were only too keen to sign him up for a new long-term deal.

But fast forward seven seasons and only 44 Premier League appearances, and this had become a relationship which would never quite get off the ground.

Four loan spells of varying success - all in competitive leagues - as well as bit-part development in the Premier League had never been enough to convince United they had a player worth the integral role Van Gaal had hoped.

Even when their own scouts, on a fact-finding mission in South America, were blown away by his performances for his final loan side Flamengo in 2022, it was not enough. Time to move on.

"I knew I needed to move permanently last summer, to start from scratch and build something," he said.

"I played a lot out of position on the left or right wing so I didn't get five or six games in my best position and the confidence to take that position."

That permanent move could have come with Flamengo but after impressing in the Brazilian top flight, they pulled the plug on a deal - much to the public chagrin of their manager.

The top brass had been burned by his slip leading to the winning goal in the Copa Libertadores final against domestic rivals Palmeiras. It left Pereira back to square one - but then in stepped Marco Silva.

An £11m move to Fulham was sealed in July soon after his first conversation with the manager in their native Portuguese. "Marco was very important for this move," Pereira said at the time. "I spoke a lot with him, and he was a key factor in me being here."

He added to The Sun: "When Marco called me, he said it was 'a great opportunity for you to show people who you really are'."

Pereira had big shoes to fill at Craven Cottage, where he replaced the Liverpool-bound Fabio Carvalho. But Silva's personal investment in his transfer has not been for nothing. Seven months on, the 27-year-old has finally found home.

Far from the bit-part role of previous seasons, he has started all 24 of Fulham's Premier League games since he joined, front and centre of their midfield trio. It would be a shock if that doesn't become 25 when Wolves visit Craven Cottage on Friday, live on Sky Sports Premier League.

"I know a lot of people had doubts when I decided to sign him but I knew his qualities and his character," Silva said in October. By then Pereira had already hit the ground running, with four assists and a goal from his first 12 games.

The Fulham manager has a knack of getting the best out of Portuguese-speaking players. The native tongue helps, as well as his knowledge, and understanding, of the kind of player and culture in the Brazilian and Portuguese top flights.

Fulham are reaping the rewards. Joao Palhinha, a summer signing from Sporting Lisbon, is shining at the base of midfield. Further back, Silva was the man to convince Ajax-bound Richarlison to join him at Watford from Fluminense - a move which worked out pretty well for player, manager and club.

Pereira could yet be his crowning glory. Succeeding as a creative midfielder at Premier League level remains one of the toughest roles in football, but he has taken to it in a way even Silva could not have envisaged.

Only Kevin De Bruyne, Christian Eriksen and Buyako Saka have provided more assists this season. Only Bruno Fernandes and De Bruyne have created more chances.

These are players who would get into most Premier League teams. Barely half a year ago United couldn't give Pereira away fast enough - now plenty of Fulham's rivals will be wondering whether they should have taken a chance on him too.

No side in the Premier League have scored more set-piece goals than Fulham, with three made by Pereira crosses. He holds the joint-best return from dead balls in the division.

In this well-oiled team, his success has to be down to more than about more than just picking a pass. Fulham have defied expectation to enjoy a realistic shot at a European place as much through hard graft as technical quality.

Pereira has his own role in that. He ranks third at the club for sprints, and won possession back more than any of Fulham's other attacking players this season.

He credits another Portuguese coach, Jose Mourinho, with developing his defensive game - despite barely featuring during the two and a half years he was Manchester United manager. Although he would have preferred to be playing more regularly at that point, it has helped to serve that all his frustrations earlier in his career have not been in vain - and have helped him sync perfectly at Craven Cottage.

"The way Marco plays is the exact same way I think about football," Pereira told The Guardian. "Pressing, scoring a lot of goals, taking risks. Defensively you have to be disciplined too. But I feel free."

Source Ron Walker at SkySports
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