- Bruno Henrique’s sizzling form has put him on Tite’s radar
- He chats to FIFA.com about Palmeiras’ hopes of a comeback against Boca Juniors
- The midfielder also discusses therapy, Felipao, Brazil and UAE 2018
The cinema-styled, triple-green-toned seats at Allianz Parque are so funky that Justin Bieber joked he wanted to take one home with him before performing there last year. An occupant of one would have readily shipped it to San Fernando Valley, Puslinch Lake, Billionaire's Row or whichever mansion the Canadian megastar so desired in 2018’s infancy.
Bruno Henrique was sick of the sight of that bench. Fast-forward six months, however, and the 29-year-old is an automatic starter, Palmeiras captain, and a CONMEBOL man-of-the-match vacuum in the Copa Libertadores. He’s been esteemed by a former Brazil coach and the current one. He has realistic hopes of lifting the Campeonato Brasileiro and Libertadores trophies, as well as rubbing shoulders with Real Madrid and Co in December’s FIFA Club World Cup, before the New Year fireworks sound.
To what the multifunctional midfielder attributes his metamorphism may surprise you.
“I think the majority of people have fears and insecurities and need help,” Bruno candidly explained to FIFA.com. “People are scared to admit that they need help.
“You don’t have to be crazy or a bad person to need help. I think most of us need therapy – not just footballers, but everybody.
“I’ve had therapy for the last two, three years, but I really started to step it up at the end of last year. It’s helped me so, so much. It’s helped me understand my relationships with my wife, family, friends better. It’s helped me with my fears, my insecurities, to have peace of mind.
“A footballer has so many off-the-pitch things that can hinder him on the pitch. Now, I can go to training and into matches without worrying about other things, focusing only on football.”
The upshot is that Bruno Henrique 2018 is an indubitable upgrade on his former model. The Cambira native, who is always had chameleon’s vision, is fitter and defensively better than he has ever been, and has added goals to his game. 14 of them have come this season, including multiple scorchers from his right adidas Nemeziz.
Bruno has been one of the standout players in the Brasileiro 2018, alongside team-mate Dudu, Lucas Paqueta and Everton Cebolinha, helping Palmeiras hold a four-point lead over Flamengo, with seven rounds remaining. And he was peerless as 'The Big Green' paraded into the Libertadores semi-finals.
A late brace from substitute Dario Benedetto snatched Boca Juniors a 2-0 win at the Bombonera last week, however, and left Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side with it all to do, heading into Wednesday’s deciding leg at Allianz Parque.
“Boca is a team of quality players,” said Bruno. “They’re strong all over. They’re also very dangerous from set-pieces. We have to stay alert to this.
“We need goals, so we have to attack, but we have to do so intelligently. But we can’t be scared of them. We have to play our own game. We have quality players who can get us the goals we need.
“I’m sure we’ll produce a great performance. And the support will be fundamental. Palmeiras have fantastic supporters. The energy in our stadium when it’s full, it gives you such motivation and it makes it a cauldron for the opposition.
“Winning the Libertadores and playing at the Club World Cup, against teams like Real Madrid, is a dream for every player here in Brazil. It would be incredible.
“Felipao makes us believe we can do it. He’s a sensational coach and a great person. When you have a serial champion with clubs and national teams, who’s masterminded comebacks many times, with you, it gives you great confidence.”
Praise between the moustached master and pupil has travelled in the opposite direction, with Scolari lauding Bruno as an “excellent leader” – high praise from a man who has afforded armbands to Cesar Sampaio, Cafu, Luis Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo and John Terry.
The actual Brazil coach is also an admirer of a player who helped him win the Brasileirao for Corinthians in 2015. Tite elected against summoning players involved in the Brasileiro and Libertadores trophy tussles for November’s friendlies against Uruguay and Cameroon, but he has entertained calling on his old 'Mister Dependable' twice recently.
“I was really pleased to hear Tite mention me in an interview,” Bruno said. “It’s a big dream to play for the national team. Everyone has a chance with Tite. He’s picking players based in Brazil and picking players on merit. So, I’ve just got to keep playing well for Palmeiras, and hopefully, I’ll get a call.”
If Bruno can guide the escape from Boca’s labyrinth, it may shortcut his skywalk to the Seleção.