Hearts’ Joel Pereira on why friendship with Man Utd’s David de Gea can help him reach the top
Joel Pereira believes his close relationship with David De Gea can help him become a top goalkeeper.
The 23-year-old this week joined Hearts on a season-long loan from Manchester United and he explained how training with the Spanish superstar is improving his game.
“We are very close and very good friends,” said Pereira. “David has helped me a lot in the last couple of years in training with him. There is also Sergio Romero and Lee Grant, so it’s been fantastic. They have been great with me and are always there to help me. Maybe when I make a little mistake they try to encourage me. They have made me a better goalkeeper – I’ve learned a lot from them.
“Not many people get to train with the best goalkeeper in the world. They are all world-class goalkeepers at United and David is, for me, at the top of the world. To have the chance to see him and train with him every day is fantastic for me.
“I enjoyed every single moment of it. In training, he does the same things you see on TV. He makes fantastic saves all the time. He is so calm that it sometimes looks like he sees the ball in slow motion! You have a shot that is flying in, he makes it looks so easy that you think he must be seeing it slowed down.
“He’s also a very good guy who works well, then puts his quality into games. He gives me lots of advice, especially when I train with him – not just him but the other keepers as well. They’ve always been there to help me.”
When Man United announced Pereira’s move to Hearts on Twitter, De Gea responded by tweeting: “Enjoy the experience and prove how good you are bro!” “It was a nice message he sent me on Twitter and hopefully I can do what he said,” said Pereira. “We have a very good relationship and hopefully that can continue. We will definitely keep in touch while I’m here. When I’ve been on loan previously, we always stayed in touch, phoned each other. Maybe once a week, I call him or he calls me.”
Pereira has grown accustomed to mixing with some of football’s biggest names during his seven years at United. He made three competitive appearances for the first team in 2017 and played in two pre-season friendlies in Australia last month. His first meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson in 2012 helped brace him for life alongside the game’s big guns. “Sir Alex was the manager when I first arrived,” he explained. “I came as a 15-year-old for the first time and I remember seeing him for the first time in the canteen. Face to face he talked to me and that’s when I knew I wanted to come to United because at the time I had different options. The way he spoke, at that second I made my mind up to go to the club.
“I couldn’t speak a word of English so it wasn’t very easy to understand. I had someone translate but he said I was at the best club in the world and he told me to do great things. When these words come from a legend you listen.”
After loan spells in Portugal and Belgium, Pereira, who is contracted to United until 2021, is relishing the next phase of his development in Ferguson’s homeland. “We saw all the options and had a chat at United and ended up choosing Hearts as the best option for me,” he said. “I think it was important for me to stay in the UK, it’s not far from Manchester. That was an important part. I had options abroad but I think it was important for me to have an experience in the UK. I spoke to Demi Mitchell about the club and he told me a lot of positive things about everything: the conditions, the club, the coach and the team-mates. That made my choice a bit easier.”