It did not take long for Bruma to announce himself in Portugal’s opening match at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013; just 35 minutes, in fact. By then, he had put his side into the lead, helped tee up team-mate Aladje for the second and driven Nigeria’s defenders to distraction with some mazy runs.
Then again, doing things quickly is something that comes naturally to the young Sporting forward, who is still only 18 and seen by many as having a brilliant career in front of him. Bruma served further notice of his potential in the second half too, killing off Nigeria's second-half fightback by scoring his side’s winner in an absorbing 3-2 victory.
Having arrived in Portugal from his native Guinea-Bissau at the age of 12, Bruma wasted little time getting himself noticed by Os Leões, joining their fabled youth ranks and capping his meteoric progress by earning a first-team debut with the club earlier this season. In that time, he seems to have developed much faster than his peers, to the extent that he appears a seasoned veteran alongside them.
“The last few years have been important in my development,” he told FIFA.com with a smile on his face. “I didn’t have the right attitude to begin with, but I think I’ve improved in that respect. All I wanted to do was dribble with the ball, do nutmegs and flick the ball over people’s heads. Then I began to realise that I had to take things more seriously.”
That realisation came while he was finding his way in the Sporting youth set-up. The teenager who would sulk whenever he was left out of the starting line-up gradually began to grow up, developing into a player who is now turning heads around Europe and whose contract with the Lisbon club carries a multi-million euro buyout clause.
“I remember that my head would usually go down when something didn’t come off, but I was told not to give up and that my time would come,” he recalled. “Jesualdo [Ferreira, Sporting’s coach at the time] was very important in that whole period for me. He was like a father to me. He brought me into the first team and since then I’ve taken on the older players and taken quite a few hits. That’s why I think I’ve learned and got used to things, and it’s made a big difference for me now.”
That difference was clear for all to see even before he arrived in Turkey. Appearing for his country in the elite round of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship earlier this month, the 5’8 quicksilver forward turned in a string of scintillating displays and scored five goals in three games, a tally he has now taken to seven in four for A Selecção das Quinas in June alone.
Yet there is no question of him feeling tired from all his exertions: “Not at all. You always feel a bit tired at the end of games. That’s only natural. But when you’re playing for the national team it’s always worth making that extra effort. I’ll soon be ready and raring to go for the next game.”
He added: “We want to get through the group phase and make a name for ourselves. We’ve scored a vital win in our opening game but I know what this team is capable of and I know we can improve.”
Mature words for an 18-year-old, though the fact remains that he still enjoys a little bit of horseplay. “I love fooling around and playing the clown,” said the self-proclaimed joker in the Portuguese pack. “There are times during training sessions, however, when the coaches don’t like it. I know I’ve got to take things more seriously, change a little and concentrate on my finishing. It’s not arrogance. It’s just the way I am. And in the last few months at least things have been going well for me.”
Bruma – a nickname given to him by his parents and which is used in Guinea-Bissau to refer to a traveller or someone who is always moving house – is hoping to make the most of the opportunities that come his way for club and country and follow in the footsteps of two of his biggest idols, both of whom emerged from Sporting’s youth academy.
“I really like Cristiano Ronaldo,” revealed the livewire, whose actual name is Armindo Tue Na Bangna. “I think he’s got the lot as a player and I don’t mind saying that I try to copy what he does. Who knows, I might be able to achieve what he’s done one day? He and Nani are two players I admire, and I hope to play alongside them in the same team one day so I can carry on learning.”
Having grown in maturity, that day could well come sooner rather than later for the exciting Bruma.