LEO BONATINI

John Wragg in­ter­views Wolves’ much-trav­elled Brazil­ian striker

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By John Wragg

LEO Bonatini’s fa­ther has flown in from Brazil to see, for the first time, his son play like a Wolf.

Striker Bonatini has made an im­pact in the open­ing months of his loan to Wolves with three goals in seven Cham­pi­onship games ahead of yes­ter­day’s trip to Not­ting­ham For­est.

“How do you say, the Wolves? The wolf, it is an an­i­mal,” says Bonatini.

“It is an an­i­mal that the coach (Wolves boss Nuno) talks to us about. He says we have to have the same men­tal­ity as wolves, to play like a pack to win the games.

“If we can play like the wolf, I know they will re­mem­ber us here. If you just play and say ‘oh, ok, I’m here’ then that is not enough.

“I think you have to write your name in the his­tory books of this club.”

They love the Wolves in Brazil. They are up there with our Premier League glam­our boys Manch­ester United, City, Chelsea.

Why? The an­swer is in the name.

“When they watch the Cham­pi­onship on the TV or the com­puter, Wolves is one of the big clubs in Brazil be­cause when they see the wolf, they re­mem­ber,” ex­plains Bonatini.

Ex­cit­ing

“They know which club it is be­cause of the wolf. They know the colours. They fol­low.

“Many friends of mine they know about Wolves and they like to watch. This makes the at­trac­tion. It is very fa­mous. I know from his­tory that Wolves were the big­gest club in Eng­land in the past and now to get this club back into the Premier League, and for me to play in that league with them, that is the dream I have.”

In an hour with him at the Wolves train­ing ground the day be­fore the For­est game, Bonatini, 23, was good com­pany, his English good, al­though he says he will have lessons to make it bet­ter, a man made ma­ture by his world­wide ca­reer.

His dad Ed­uardo has seen his son play for Cruzeiro and Goias in Brazil, go to Italy with Ju­ven­tus as a youth, make his name with loads of goals for Es­to­ril in Por­tu­gal, get more goals and more money in Saudi Ara­bia with AlHi­lal and now he is the Black Coun­try boy.

“My dad is here for 20 days to stay with me,” he said. “He has not seen me play for the Wolves live so I think he is ex­cited to see.

“I like to live on my own so that if I want to stay at the train­ing ground and work, stay un­til 6pm, I can and not worry for my dad. But also it is good he is here to help me. I re­ally like when he comes.

“He will watch me and bring me luck. He watched me in Saudi Ara­bia, but my mother, she could not be­cause the women there, they can­not go to the sta­dium.

“She re­ally, re­ally likes foot­ball and now she loves it be­cause I am play­ing in Eng­land. She says she can come but is afraid to come alone be­cause she can­not speak English.

“But she will come in De­cem­ber. Christ­mas and New Year, my par­ents will come to­gether.”

Mr and Mrs Bonatini, you will be able to see your ra­paz (boy in English), bebe (bab­bie in Black Coun­try) play against Ipswich at Mo­lineux on De­cem­ber 23 and Brent­ford at home on New Year’s Day.

By then we’ll know if Wolves’ ex­cit­ing fly­ing start to the sea­son has been sus­tained or if it’s so­bre (over).

Bonatini scored on his Wolves de­but against Mid­dles­brough, got an­other in their de­feat at Cardiff and one in the mid­week 3-3 draw with Bris­tol City.

Slick style

He’s around his ca­reer ra­tio of a goal ev­ery two games.

“I was told the dif­fer­ence for me is that I will get less chances in the Cham­pi­onship. If I get three chances I have to take one. So I think of that,” says Bonatini.

When he came back from Juve (“I was on loan from Cruzeiro and Ju­ven­tus said they wanted to sign me. Then they didn’t. I don’t know to this day why”) he scored 20 goals in 37 games for his first ma­jor club, Es­to­ril, and then 15 in 35 for Al-Hi­lal.

He was play­ing in front of 80,000 crowds in Riyadh, win­ning the league, the cup and fly­ing vast dis­tances in the Asian Cham­pi­ons League. Games are at night to avoid tem­per­a­tures which can top 36C and the heat and the sand burn the throat.

So play­ing on a wet mid­win­ter in Barnsley (Jan­uary 13) has its at­trac­tions.

“It is bet­ter to play in cold than hot. Here the weather is very good to play. I just need some­thing to get hot on my fin­gers and that would be nice,” he smiles.

The game sched­ule he had with Al-Hi­lal was heavy, the trav­el­ing drain­ing, the pres­sure big so Bonatini doesn’t think he will fold when Barnsley comes.

“With Al-Hi­lal, they are the big­gest club. Like Real Madrid in Spain, Al-Hi­lal are like that in Saudi. You are ex­pected to win ev­ery match which of course is not pos­si­ble. But if you don’t the peo­ple want to know why.”

Ex­pectancy at Wolves is al­ways sim­mer­ing, as it is at As­ton Villa. Leeds, Not­ting­ham For­est and the

“Wolves is one of the big clubs in Brazil be­cause when they see the wolf, they re­mem­ber

Leo Bonatini Wolves

full list of the Cham­pi­onship’s yes­ter­day he­roes.

The lat­est to try and do what six man­agers haven’t since Mick McCarthy eight years ago and get Wolves up is Nuno Espir­ito Her­lan­der Si­moes Santo. “Nuno” for short­hand. He’s whirl­winded his way into the club, the old guard gone, the new, mostly Por­tuguese like him­self, in with a slick style of foot­ball.

It’s work­ing but Nuno is shy to the me­dia. So what’s he like?

“He looks like a strong guy,” he said, “but he’s a very good guy.

“It’s the first time I work with him and he is like a fa­ther for us. He is open to ev­ery­thing. If you need some­thing, if you want to go and speak with him to ask some­thing, you can go there. He says to us, ‘If you want to go to my of­fice my door will be open’.

“Some coaches they are small. But Nuno was a keeper, a very good keeper, he is tall, strong, he is a big guy, but he likes to be the first to joke.

Wishes

“He treats us all the same but when he needs to say some­thing in foot­ball you can­not just say ‘please, come on’. No, you need to scream to say the best way. He can do this.

“I’m learn­ing a lot off him. I feel at home here. When I wake up I never feel like ‘come on, I have to go there’. A day off is nice to en­joy, but I miss it.

“When I was at Juve I didn’t like it. I wanted to go home. I could have gone to Utrecht but I said no. Here I want to stay. I hope I am suc­cess­ful, I hope Wolves want me at the end of the loan. I hope Al-Hi­lal can agree with Wolver­hamp­ton. That is my wishes.

“But one thing. My ears are ready to un­der­stand the accent here, but it is hard. I can talk in English but when I hear the accent it is a dif­fer­ent lan­guage.”

Don’t worry bab. Keep out the hoss road. (Don’t be con­cerned my friend, but get out of the way).

HOT STUFF: Bonatini in his days play­ing for Al-Hi­lal

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

C’EST BON! Leo Bonatini, right, has set­tled in nicely at Mo­lineux UN­DER­STAND­ING: Nuno Espir­ito Santo

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