That a potential six-match ban for breaking quarantine rules would be such a blow to the Brazlian giants speaks to the impact the midfielder has made
Almost a month after Brazil’s abortive World Cup qualifier against Argentina, a most unexpected figure faces hefty punishment having been caught up in the messy aftermath of that farcical episode.
The Manchester United loanee appeared for Flamengo for the first time just eight days after arriving in Brazil, and two weeks before ANVISA read of his case in the papers.
The midfielder now faces a maximum six-match suspension for his alleged flouting of the sanitary regulations, and it is a testament to just how bright he has looked since moving to Rio de Janeiro that such a sanction would be a huge blow to Flamengo at a critical stage of the season.
Pereira, 25, decided to take in his first taste of Brazilian football – he is in fact a dual national, having been born in Belgium and nurtured in the ranks of Dutch giants PSV prior to joining United – when it became clear his career at Old Trafford had stalled.
The timing could not have been more opportune. The Red Devils were keen to sanction another loan spell following similar moves to Lazio, Valencia and Granada, while the player jumped at the chance to represent a club of Flamengo’s prestige and stature.
“Flamengo are the best club in the Americas,” he beamed at his presentation. “All foreigners and my club friends say that if they were to play in South America, it would be for Flamengo.
“My puppy is called [Flamengo and Brazil legend] Zico, my dad always used to show me his videos. I always liked his style.”
The Rio side too had everything to gain from Pereira’s arrival.
While for the last three seasons Flamengo have arguably been the strongest side on the continent, and by some distance, coach Renato Gaucho had to adjust in the transfer window as Gerson, the cornerstone of the club’s midfield, left for Marseille.
Typically for a team which has held no qualms over flexing its immense financial muscle, they swooped for not one, but two potential replacements, bringing in both Pereira and Kenedy to fill that creative gap.
The ex-Chelsea man has taken a while to settle in, but his former Premier League rival looks right at home, turning in a string of excellent performances in both Serie A and the Copa Libertadores to banish thoughts of the Estadio Maracana’s former favourite now being in France.
“He plays more or less like Gerson, but he is much faster. He’s also more dynamic than Gerson was,” Flamengo idol Junior, a team-mate of Zico’s at both club level and in that wonderful Brazil side of the 1980s, told Globo.
“He fights very hard, he comes from a school of play, the English game, in which you need to battle, and that might have been what was missing in this Flamengo team.”