Roberto Mancini’s Inter have begun Serie A in perfect fashion, reeling off five consecutive wins to start the season thanks largely to a number of players they signed this past summer. But sitting close behind them are Torino, a club whose major foray into the transfer market was to sell Matteo Darmian to Manchester United.
Yet, even without the Italian international, the Granata remain a well-drilled unit, sprinkled with enough quality to snatch important victories along the way. That has been their method of operating since appointing Giampiero Ventura back in 2011, winning promotion to the top-flight immediately and somehow remaining competitive despite repeatedly selling their best players.
Before Darmian, the likes of Angelo Ogbonna, Alessio Cerci and Ciro Immobile were each sacrificed for a huge profit, and as the 2015/16 campaign rumbles on, their next big star has continued to emerge. Bruno Peres arrived a year ago and settled into a role on the right flank, steadily improving as the season wore on, offering glimpses of just what he could do and quickly repaying the faith shown in him by Torino.
His career began in atypical fashion, bouncing around a number of smaller clubs in his native São Paulo before eventually landing at Santos. However, the path to the starting XI was blocked by Cicinho, and supplanting the former AS Roma defender in the side would not be easy.
Peres described their battle for the spot on the right flank as “a healthy war,” and one from which he eventually emerged, balancing a team which boasted Juve’s Alex Sandro on the opposite flank. Torino would spot him and bring him to the peninsula at a cost of just €2.2 million, a fee which is quickly beginning to look like a bargain, and an investment that the club will clearly reap huge profit from.
But if his career to date is overshadowed by that of other wing-backs discovered by Santos – the likes of Sandro and Real Madrid’s Danilo immediately spring to mind – it has been a similar story for Torino. Recent years have seen them struggle while cross-town rivals Juventus thrive, and as Peres entered his first local derby last November he would have done so with the knowledge that his new side had not beaten their neighbours since 1995.
They had also not scored against the Bianconeri in over a decade, something Peres would dramatically alter after Torino fell behind. Taking the ball away from Paul Pogba on the edge of his own box, Peres sped away from the Frenchman, before doing the same to both Patrice Evra and Arturo Vidal. Reaching the opposition penalty area, he cut inside and crashed a powerful shot off the far post which Marco Storari was powerless to stop.
Juventus Stadium fell silent as he ran over to celebrate with the small pocket of visiting supporters, testament to the energy with which he plays each and every match. “When I reached midfield, I already felt exhausted,” Peres told reporters after the game. “'Then I remembered the words of our coach, who asked us all to pounce on opportunities to hurt Juventus!”
Sadly for him, Andrea Pirlo would conjure up a magnificent winning goal as time ran out, but the game had already introduced a huge audience to Torino’s newest gem. Over the course of the season he would net twice more – albeit in not quite so spectacular fashion – while weighing in with three assists. Powerful, fast and comfortable with the ball on either foot, Peres has shown himself capable as playing as a wing-back in Ventura’s 3-5-2 formation or as an orthodox full-back when deployed as part of a four-man defence.
Indeed, 2014/15 saw him average 1.8 tackles and 1.3 interceptions per game according to statistics from WhoScored.com, comparing favourably with Darmian’s marks of 2.6 and 1.3 respectively for that same period. The duo played a vital role as Torino once again finished in the top half of the table, and Peres has now seemingly taken on more responsibility after his former team-mate moved on to Old Trafford.
Notching his second assist of the new season last weekend to lift his side to victory over Sampdoria, his distribution and crossing look vastly improved, completing 88% of his passes this term compared to 78% a year ago. That has prompted discussions over a new contract, with TuttoSport believing an agreement between the two parties is close, as Torino look to ensure they are in as strong a bargaining position as possible when bigger clubs inevitably come calling.
Both AS Roma and Milan were disappointed that they were unable to secure a deal for the 25-year-old this past summer, but if his current form holds then there will be a much longer queue of suitors for Bruno Peres next time around.