BRUNO Alves says he owes his combative approach to football to his Brazilian father Washington Geraldo Dias Alves and his upbringing in the tough coastal town of Povoa de Varzim in Northern Portugal. The 35-year-old Euro 2016 winner and multiple league title winner got the big build up prior to his arrival in the Scottish game but is living up to the star billing thus far, opening his account for the club with a vicious free-kick against Dunfermline Athletic of which his more vaunted Portuguese team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo would have been proud.
Alves paid tribute to the advice he gained from his father, a man who he said was the daddy of them all when it came to that streetwise knack of silencing strikers which Portuguese defenders often exhibit. It is a trait he will need to display to keep in-form Hibs strikers Anthony Stokes and Simon Murray quiet in today’s eagerly anticipated shoot-out in Govan.
“I like to play hard but I also like to play fair, this comes from my father,” said Alves, a fearsome product of the favelas who played for Flamengo and Bahia before his talents took him to Northern Portugal. “They used to say he was one of the five most dangerous defenders in Brazil. There is a famous story – in Bahia there is a big rivalry between the teams. One day because they were playing against a striker who kicks everybody there, they brought my father there to fight against him, and there was a big fight.
“Pozoa de Varzim is a special place because it is a fishermans’ city and they bring a bit of this difficult life to the pitch,” he said. “We always have a lot of talented players from my city and they have always have this attitude, it is something you cannot explain. So I learned from my father but also from my city, this culture they have there.
“When I was at Porto, it was like that too. We had to fight against all the difficulties. Benfica and Sporting were bigger than Porto at the time but Porto is what it is today because of this kind of behaviour and attitude. So all of my career I liked to play like this and many persons that I know, they told me that I came to the right club and the right country because this is the kind of football that I like. When I told my friend Jose Fonte about Rangers, he said ‘Bruno, this is a good move for you’. He told me it was going to be physical – in Portugal, we say it is going to be your beach!’”
Where once his father used to shackle the greats of the golden era of Brazilian football now Alves schemes to stop the superstars of another generation. “The toughest is Ronaldo, for me he is the best,” said Alves. “He is so difficult to mark, he has so many skills. He is strong in the air, fast, a great dribbler – left or right. I also played against Drogba. Many years ago, when I was 21, I also played against Peter Crouch – that was a difficult challenge. Every game is difficult, you need to adapt to the conditions.”
The 35-year-old won’t be taking every set piece going, merely when the angle and moment suits him. He will be in the mix with Daniel Candeias, Niko Kranjcar and James Tavernier. The only time he can’t get a look-in is during international matches – when Cristiano Ronaldo tends to have the role to himself. “I have scored some free-kicks previously – but none for the national team because Ronaldo never lets me take any!” he said. “Candeias was supposed to take it on Wednesday night, but I asked him if I could have it because I like taking them from that area of the pitch.”
It hasn’t taken long for a hero to be born. “Another thing I learned from my father, when you give your best, you receive good things. This is what I expect here, to give my best, do a good job and win.”