Watch Bruno's interview with Sky Sports' Johnny Phillips
Brighton captain Bruno talks to Johnny Phillips about his footballing journey, diet, keys to happiness, his unassuming status as a cult hero, and what it means to have his mural on the side of an ice cream parlour…
Time and tide wait for no man. There must have been many occasions after three separate play-off defeats that Brighton’s veteran captain Bruno thought his time had passed.
“Of course maybe the first five or 10 minutes after those games. When we lost against Sheffield Wednesday a couple of seasons ago it was really tough,” he says.
“You feel like you’ve been playing 48 games to try and achieve what you’ve been dreaming about since you were really young. But after that you just keep going and working hard. If you work hard then normally you can achieve what you dream of.”
Last Sunday, the 37-year-old full-back made his 200th appearance for Albion in their 1-1 draw at Southampton. When promotion was achieved last May, it wasn’t just a personal triumph. “I was especially happy for my wife, she suffered all my habits; the sleeping, the diet. We are like a team and for her it was a big thing as well.”
Bruno is referring to the gluten-free diet he observes. Sugary liquids are off the menu, with coconut water, green tea and the odd espresso the drinks of choice. He is big on sleeping too.
“I’m trying to sleep nine or 10 hours a day. As you’re getting older you need longer time to recover and resting properly is so important,” he explains. “I am really strict with my diet. I’ve got a big routine, so that every day when I wake up I try and do the same things.”
Bruno is speaking at the club’s impressive training facility in Lancing ahead of Saturday’s trip to Swansea. He moved to Brighton not long after the Amex Stadium opened and has enjoyed these salubrious surroundings at a club that for many years was penniless and homeless.
But the Catalonian knows his history and believes those that went before him deserve credit for the Premier League promotion as much as the players that actually achieved it.
“I was over the moon, but I felt sorry for those players who were fighting as much as I’ve been fighting but they weren’t there to enjoy that time,” he adds.
“It’s a lot of players who, years and years ago, when we didn’t have a stadium and we didn’t have that facility we have now, they were fighting. So it’s not just the players that played last year, a lot of players have been working for this a long time.”
“There’s two aspects to him,” says Andy Naylor, chief sports writer at the Brighton Argus. “There’s Bruno the player and there’s Bruno the captain of the club. In both cases he’s been such a great servant; on the pitch with the way he leads the club and also off the pitch he gets very involved in the community.
“When Gus Poyet signed him he was a free transfer from Valencia. At that time Brighton had quite a big Spanish influence, with players like Andrea Orlandi and Inigo Calderon. That’s dissipated now but he’s the great survivor of that Spanish Armada, as it was back then.”
Highlights: Brighton 1-1 Southampton
Bruno has become an icon of the Brighton success story and, apart from his yearning for some traditional Catalonian food, he is at home on the south coast.
“When we came my little one was one month old and my oldest was four years. Of course they are bilingual, they speak Spanish and English to the same level,” he reveals.
“My missus would love to stay here as well. That’s one of the keys to having good performances on the pitch, because if you are happy where you are living and you adapt yourself to the English culture, the English habits, that’s one of the keys.”
He attributes much of his longevity to the strong family behind him. When he first left his home in Catalonia and signed for Almeria, his partner was moved to tears at the thought of the upheaval. But they quickly settled and were sorry to leave when the chance for him to join Valencia and play Champions League football came around.
Bruno is a cult hero in the stands. Reluctant to acknowledge as much, he admits that his unwavering commitment on and off the pitch may be why supporters have taken him to their hearts so willingly.
“What the fans are looking for is a player who gives everything for the shirt that you wear. I’m not going to say anything about myself, but the only thing I will say is that every game I try to give everything I’ve got inside. Every day; in training sessions, in what I do. I think that’s why fans always love the players who give everything for the club.”
Walk amongst the North Lanes in Brighton’s city centre and you will happen across a giant mural on the wall of an ice cream parlour dedicated to El Capitan. It is a reminder of his status in the city.
When showing him a team photo of his days starting out in the game, when he became a first-teamer at Lleida, he laughs at how life has changed and recalls a change in position that shaped his career.
“Wow, I look so much bigger. And all the hair! I was playing as a right winger and a midfielder there. I didn’t play a lot and had to change my game. One day we had our right-back suspended and the manager said to me, ‘Listen you’re gonna play here.’ Since then I’ve played as a right-back and it changed my life.”
When Bruno takes the field for his 201st Brighton match at Swansea on Saturday he will appreciate every minute on the pitch, as he has done throughout his whole career.
“I’ve been really lucky to play in different teams, to play in La Liga and the Champions League. For me it’s a dream. I left home when I was 14 to play football and it’s been a long time, more than 20 years fighting every day, but I’m doing what I love.”
You can see more of our interview with Bruno on Soccer Saturday.