Matheus Cunha is quick - just not as quick as new RB Leipzig teammate 'Turbo' Timo Werner (his words, not ours). Happily, the 19-year-old Brazilian forward hasn't moved to Leipzig to best the club's all-time leading Bundesliga goalscorer in a footrace.
"I've come here to compete," Cunha said after joining Leipzig on a five-year deal from Swiss Super League club Sion on 24 June 2018. "I've come here to help the team, just like they'll help me. I'm a team player, technical and quick, but I'm not as quick as Timo Werner. I just want to be successful and grow as a player."
OFFICIAL: Brazilian forward Matheus #Cunha has moved to Leipzig from Swiss side @FCSion and signed a five-year deal until 2023 🇧🇷✍️— RB Leipzig English (@RBLeipzig_EN) June 24, 2018
Welcome to Leipzig, Matheus! 👋 #DieRotenBullen pic.twitter.com/rZjdeWXORi
It's a philosophy that has already served Cunha well. Enjoying an eye-catching debut season of senior football at Sion last term, the former Coritiba youth player hit 10 goals and eight assists in 29 league matches - including a hat-trick on the final day against FC Thun. He did most of his damage operating as a central striker (eight goals in nine games), but proved equally adept playing on either flank or as a second striker.
"Matheus Cunha is a very interesting striker," said sporting director-turned head coach Ralf Rangnick. "He's young, quick and has a lot of quality in attack. He's especially good in front of goal and he's versatile. He's developed magnificently over the last year at Sion, but there's still a lot more potential to tap into."
In other words, Cunha is everything Leipzig look for in a player. And in Leipzig – a club that exclusively pursues the young, raw and gifted – Cunha is in the ideal environment to take his budding career to the next level. Former Leipzig defender and fellow Coritiba academy graduate Bernardo told him as much.
"I asked Bernardo about the Bundesliga and Leipzig," Cunha said, revealing he also sought advice from Hamburg defender Douglas Santos. "Bernardo informed me that Leipzig are a really strong team, and that the Bundesliga is a really strong league, an attacking league. He said the level is really high, and that it is the best place there is for a player's development."
💬 Matheus #Cunha: "This move will be a big step up for me, but I believe in myself and my ability to perform in the #Bundesliga. I'm really looking forward to being a part of this young team that's so hungry for success." #DieRotenBullen pic.twitter.com/DVBGNGpzKo— RB Leipzig English (@RBLeipzig_EN) June 24, 2018
Bernardo has since jumped ship, recently joining English side Brighton and Hove Albion, but Cunha is not alone at the Red Bull Arena. As well as having fellow Portuguese speaker Bruma for company, the Brazil U20 international has French in his locker from his time in Switzerland and is already picking up German.
"I want to work as hard off the pitch as I do on it, and that means learning the language" Cunha said, having greeted the German press at his unveiling with a friendly "Guten Tag, ich spiele Fußball, wie geht's?" (Hi, I play football, how are you?) before answering back with a "Gut, danke" (I'm well, thanks). He even knows his numbers from 1-10.
Now that might sound relatively elementary, but let's not forget Cunha is still a teenager. His willingness to assimilate into a foreign culture speaks volumes for a player quick of feet and mind - and could make or break his time in Germany. If Werner (22) is indeed the pacesetter at Leipzig, Speedy Gon-Cunha is not far behind.