Shakhtar Donetsk, despite being located all the way over in Ukraine, continue to serve as a common pathway for talented Brazilian players to Europe, just as they have since the turn of the millennium. Athletico Paranaense midfielder Bruno Guimarães has been rumored as the latest youngster set to make that move this summer.
But according to SporTV journalist André Rizek, one of the most respected voices in Brazil when it comes to football, Chelsea have now entered the picture as well, and are keen on gazumping Shakhtar for the 21-year-old (pending any possible transfer bans of course).
Bruno started his career as a youth player in Audax Rio, a club run by agents looking to place players at big teams around the country. Having failed to do so in Rio, Bruno moved in 2015 from his hometown to the Audax headquarters in São Paulo. Two years later, after showcasing his talents at the U20 São Paulo Cup, he was picked up by Athletico-PR.
Last season, he was vital in Athletico’s efforts in winning the Copa Sulamericana — CONMEBOL’s equivalent of UEFA’s Europa League — and the Paraná State Championship. He’s continued to impress this season, showing incredible quality in creating chances from midfield, including an assist in the memorable 3-0 victory over Argentinian giants Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores (CONMEBOL’s Champions League equivalent).
As much as Shakhtar is a proven pathway, Chelsea could have a leg up thanks to the various agents involved. According to Rizek, Bruno’s representatives have a strong connection with the agent Giuliano Bertolucci, Chelsea’s usual Brazilian fixer, whose son was seen in the stands next to a Chelsea official in the Boca Juniors game at Athletico’s home ground, Arena da Baixada earlier this week.
The one thing that could make things go south is Bruno’s transfer fee. His contract reportedly carries a €40 million release clause, and Athletico will look to collect that in whole. Rumored competition from the likes of Inter Milan, Napoli and Lille could help drive up the fee even more, well above the level where the transfer would carry almost no risk, like when Chelsea paid €7 million to Athletico for Nathan in 2015.
And lest we forget, the transfer ban still lingers, at least until April 11, when FIFA will hear the appeal.