Nuno Gomes: Foreigners are not cheats, we just like to jump out of the way

From a bruising encounter with Terry in 2004 to the Championship's hefty tackles, he knows all about big challenges

For Nuno Gomes, home used to be Cascais, the elegant seaside resort outside Lisbon once favoured by Portuguese royalty, where he would wake each morning with a view of the Atlantic. That was during his many years as a Benfica player; since he arrived at Blackburn Rovers in the summer, he has already enjoyed a visit to Blackpool, an altogether different kind of resort, but found the Irish Sea rather less enticing. "The problem is the weather," he says with a smile. "I saw some lads there swimming and my little boy said, 'Let's go for a swim'. I said, 'You'd better wait for another day'."

The weather is not the only difference, of course, and for a Portuguese footballer newly arrived in the Championship, things can seem pretty choppy out on the football field too: "It is harder here. The defenders tackle more." Gomes appreciates that the reaction to physical contact is different too.

During a week when diving was the hot topic in English football, with Michael Owen and Michael Kightly both identifying foreign players as the chief culprits, the 36-year-old seems a good person to ask for a Latin take on the debate.

Certain Portuguese players, after all, have a reputation for going down rather easily. Yet Gomes does not see it in black-and-white terms, dismissing the suggestion that football elsewhere may be inherently less honest. "It is not a question of being honest or not," he says. "OK, some players I have to admit they keep constantly [diving] during a game, but there are players I know who do that because it is a natural act to do – not to cheat the referee. [They] are afraid to be tackled so they just jump."

For Gomes, it comes down essentially to cultural baggage: what is considered unacceptable here is simply a matter of habit in southern Europe and Latin America. He cites the lessons being learned by the handful of young Portuguese players who followed him to Ewood Park, three of whom – Fabio Nunes, Paulo Jorge and Edinho – have already seen first-team action.

"In Portugal when we are young we can do bad things because maybe our culture and our mentality allow us to do that," Gomes says. "But if they do that here in England some referees or the opposition team will laugh. This is good for them to grow up as players, they will be stronger."

Gomes was speaking at Blackburn's impressive Brockhall Village training complex in a picturesque corner of the Ribble Valley. He arrived on a two-year contract from Braga, making a bright start with goals in four successive games as Rovers began their Championship programme with four wins and two draws. Then came a home defeat by Middlesbrough and the sacking of Steve Kean, followed by three matches without victory under caretaker Eric Black.

Gomes reflects: "If you change coach it means you are not doing well, but we'd started very well. The problem with the fans and Steve Kean [was] coming from last year." He witnessed only the tail end of Kean's unpopular reign and adds: "I am new to the club and maybe I am not supposed to talk about that."

An affable character, much loved by the supporters at Benfica, he is evidently a dab hand at diplomacy. "We as players appreciate the effort [Kean] took with us but we understand also the fans."

Whatever Rovers' troubles, he is "enjoying very much" the Championship experience. His fondness for the English game seems fitting; his first goal for Portugal was the winner against Kevin Keegan's England in a 3-2 comeback victory at Euro 2000.

"Everything for me started there," he says of a tournament in which he scored four times, earning a move to Fiorentina in Italy. He had returned to Benfica by Euro 2004, when Portugal overcame England in a quarter-final penalty shoot-out after a 2-2 draw. "That game was for heart attacks," he laughs.

The battles with England provided a foretaste of the physicality he now encounters in the Championship. He recalls facing the "frightening" Tony Adams at Euro 2000 and a challenge from John Terry that left him with a damaged knee ligament. "It was my fault also. I should have [realised], 'Oh it's him, I'd better leave it'. He was very hard."

Euro 2004 was also the first campaign he shared with Cristiano Ronaldo, 19 at the time but already with sights set on being the world's best. "He was a great kid, looking to learn and to grow fast. Since he was young he wanted to be the number one in football, he worked a lot to achieve that. From 16 to 18 he improved a lot, his body changed, he got stronger and that's what he needed because the technical stuff, the skill, was there."

As for Ronaldo's ability to inspire both love and loathing, Gomes replies: "[In Portugal] people of course like Ronaldo. But you know some people like him, some people don't; it's normal when you have his career and his money, his cars, his girlfriends. If you are a great footballer, people are envious."

Gomes will be just an interested spectator when Ronaldo leads out Portugal for Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland, yet he still has one big goal.

"I have one more year's contract and it would be very good for me if this year we got up to the Premier League," he says. "In my last year I would like to try the Premier League, just to see."

Pass the port

Nuno Gomes is Portugal's fifth-highest scorer of all time with 29 goals from 79 internationals.

For Benfica he hit 163 goals in 392 league games in two separate spells spanning 12 years.

Career statistics (league only):

Boavista (1994-97): 79 games, 23 goals

Benfica (1997-99, 2002-11): 292 games, 126 goals

Fiorentina (2000-02): 53 games, 14 goals

Braga (2011-12): 20 games, 6 goals

Blackburn (current): 9 games, 4 goals

Suggested Topics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff