Man City cult hero Glauber Berti opens up on relationship with fans, his year at the Etihad and Mark Hughes
Glauber Berti spent just one season at Manchester City and played less than 10 minutes, but his love affair with supporters continues until this day
With less than 10 minutes of a forgettable 2008/09 season remaining, the Etihad crowd began to stir into life. With a routine 1-0 win over Bolton signalling the end of the first season under Abu Dhabi ownership, attention was being drawn to the touchline.
City were on their way to finishing 10th in the Premier League, but it was the beginning of a new dawn. Ten major trophies have followed and they haven't finished lower than fifth since, but on May 24, 2009, the Blues were saluting a figure who had become a cult hero in his only season at the club.
Twenty times Glauber Berti had been named on City's substitute bench, without ever unzipping that tracksuit top. But with six minutes to go against Bolton the Brazilian defender was summoned by Mark Hughes.
The chants began as soon as he started getting ready for action, with his every touch cheered once he made his entrance. It cemented a love affair between Glauber and City that continues to this day.
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"When I was on the side of the pitch the supporters were going crazy, it was funny but I really enjoyed it," the 35-year-old told the MEN from Brazil.
"I knew the fans liked me, I was so happy with this. The supporters started chanting ‘Berti, Berti’, it was so funny.
"They recognised me, they were like ‘hey, Glauber, don’t worry, we recognise you’re here’. This gave me so much motivation to continue following Manchester City."
For Glauber this was the best and worst of years. The friendships he made in what he describes as a welcoming squad and the support he received from the fans made it "one of the best years" of his life. But professionally it was as difficult a year as he had in a career that took in Brazil, Germany, England, Romania and the United States.
City handed the centre back a one-year contract on August 31, 2008, the same day they signed Pablo Zabaleta. Within 24 hours Sheikh Mansour's takeover had been completed, Brazilian superstar Robinho had been signed and a new, golden chapter in City's history was about to be written.
While the takeover appeared to come out of the blue, Glauber was well aware what was in the pipeline when he put pen to paper, and having discussed life at City with countryman Elano, the same player had a hand in convincing Robinho to make the move to Manchester.
"I knew when I signed they were going to be taken over, the people inside of the club were talking about it," he said. "We knew before everybody else knew, when you’re inside of the club you know before.
"Elano was a big friend of Robinho, he asked him before the close of the window what it was like. At the time we talked a lot. In my time it was Jo, Robinho, Elano and me, we were friendly, we had a good relationship outside of the club, we enjoyed being in Manchester."
The Brazilians enjoyed mixed fortunes though, none more so than Glauber.
City signed Robinho a day after Glauber
He remembers it as a "bad" time professionally, but his attitude to training and his approach to life on the fringes at City epitomise why he was so highly thought of by teammates and fans.
After handing him his only City appearance, Hughes admitted that it was Glauber's teammates who were "all keen that he got an opportunity to get on the field in a sky blue shirt," which speaks volumes for the impact he made on the club in his only season in Manchester.
"Every training session I played it like a game, the guys were saying ‘Glauber, you have potential, why don’t you play?’, he said.
"I just waited for my opportunity and it came in the last game, but it was bad for me. It was a really difficult time because I expected to play, but I never stopped trying, I never gave up, I trained hard all the time to respect my teammates and fight for my opportunity."
Those opportunities had been denied to him by Hughes, who kept him on the bench for so long in 2008/09, but the one-cap Brazilian international even refuses to criticise his former manager.
While most footballers would be queuing up to fire personal barbs at their boss in his situation, Glauber has nothing but respect for Hughes, for his work on the training ground and his honesty.
Looking back on his relationship with Hughes, Glauber said: "He said to me all the time, ‘stay strong, you’ll get an opportunity’. At the time City had a lot of really good players, [Vincent] Kompany was playing midfield, when a central defender got injured he came into the defence and he was great.
"I understood what happened, I was an intelligent guy. I can’t say Mark Hughes was bad to me, he was a really good coach, he had a good character. I never played but I liked him because in my opinion he never made a bad relationship with me, he was honest and he had a lot of good players, a lot of options."
Since Glauber left the Etihad the club has changed beyond all recognition. If he, Jo, Geovanni, Robinho and Elano signalled the first wave of Brazilians, now Samba stars Ederson, Fernandinho and Gabriel Jesus are winning trophies for City.
City's current Brazilians Danilo, Fernandinho, Ederson and Gabriel Jesus celebrate winning four trophies
No club side provides more players to Brazil's 23-man Copa America squad than the Blues and their popularity has rocketed in the country, yet most fans don't realise a former City player is walking amongst them.
"Now in Brazil a lot of people support Manchester City, because of Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho, Ederson. They’re very popular but the people in Brazil don’t remember I played for them," said Glauber, who is now an agent back in his home land, who dreams of one day getting a move to City for a player he represents.
Having never been back to the Etihad since he left, that would give Glauber the opportunity to return and to hear the fans chant 'Berti, Berti' one more time.
"It was really, really special. I hope one year I can come back to watch one game and I get the same reception," he said.
THEY SAY SWEARING IS DUE TO A LIMITED VOCABULARY. I KNOW THOUSANDS OF WORDS, BUT I STILL PREFER "FUCK OFF" TO "GO AWAY"