HIS club has just been rel­e­gated from the top flight of Brazil­ian football for the first time in their 98-year his­tory but Fabri­cio Bruno has en­hanced his rep­u­ta­tion as a re­li­able de­fender.

Se­ri­ous off-field dif­fi­cul­ties im­pacted on on-field per­for­mances for Cruzeiro’s 2019 Serie A cam­paign.

But the 23-year-old cen­tre-half, who has gone to court in an at­tempt to have his con­tract with the fi­nan­cially-stricken Belo Hor­i­zonte club an­nulled, has emerged as one of best de­fend­ers in the en­tire league.

Play­ers from the foot­bal­lob­sessed South Amer­i­can na­tion tra­di­tion­ally haven’t fared well in Scot­land over the years.

Only five Brazil­ians have played in the top divi­sion in this coun­try in the past – Sa­muel Ca­maz­zola (Hearts), Alexan­dre Cerdeira (Dundee), Ed­inho (Dun­fermline), Emer­son (Rangers), Jun­inho and Rafael Scheidt (both Celtic) – and none lasted longer than a sea­son.

The Park­head club’s pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ences with samba stars have proved par­tic­u­larly dis­ap­point­ing.

World Cup win­ner Jun­inho failed to live up to high ex­pec­ta­tions af­ter ar­riv­ing in 2003. He was played out of po­si­tion by man­ager Martin O’Neill and only scored one goal in 22 ap­pear­ances.

Scheidt, signed for £5 mil­lion from Gremio in his home­land in 1999, made even less of an im­pact. He fea­tured in just three games, two as a sub­sti­tute, and was later rated as the se­cond worst trans­fer in football his­tory.

How­ever, sta­tis­tics show Bruno was sixth in the 20-team league for de­fen­sive duel suc­cess in 2019 af­ter win­ning 75 per cent of in­di­vid­ual bat­tles with ri­val play­ers.

Those fig­ures com­pare favourably with the Park­head club’s first choice cen­tre-backs Kristof­fer Ajer (81%) and Christo­pher Jul­lien (80%) and are bet­ter than Rangers de­fend­ers Nikola Katic (72%), Filip

He­lander (66%) and Con­nor Gold­son (61%). He would be the eighth-high­est-ranked player in Scot­land in that area. Bruno is also de­cent in the air as his sta­tis­tics on the match anal­y­sis web­site Wy­cout show; he was 11th for aerial du­els in Serie A in the 2019 sea­son, which runs from May to De­cem­ber, with a suc­cess rate of 67%. That would place him 13th in this coun­try be­hind Jul­lien (73%) and Ajer (71%), but ahead of Gold­son (66%), He­lander (65%) and Scott McKenna of Aberdeen (64%).

The 6ft 3in de­fender’s dis­ci­plinary record is also de­cent; he picked up just three yel­low cards in the 19 matches he was in­volved in and wasn’t or­dered off once.

Cruze­rio dropped down to Serie B af­ter los­ing 16 of their 38 league matches and fin­ish­ing three points be­hind Ceara. But their record when Bruno played was good. They only lost four of the 19 games he was in­volved in. They kept nine clean sheets with him in their start­ing line-up and only man­aged two when he wasn’t.

Bruno, who claims he is owed £2m in wages and im­age rights by Cruze­rio, is ea­ger to fur­ther his ca­reer over­seas and is hope­ful that hav­ing his con­tract can­celled by the Re­gional Labour Court in Belo Hor­i­zonte will make it eas­ier for Celtic to sign him.

He has en­joyed suc­cess play­ing in green and white jersey be­fore. He spent two sea­sons on loan at Chapecoens­e, the Santa Cata­rina club who lost 19 play­ers and staff in a plane crash in Colom­bia back in 2016, and en­joyed the ex­pe­ri­ence. When he re­turned to his par­ent club at the start of this year he paid a glow­ing trib­ute to “Big Green”. “It has al­ways been and will be an hon­our to wear this shirt,” Bruno told sup­port­ers. “Thanks to this won­der­ful crowd that has al­ways been with me. I will carry this club al­ways in my heart.”

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