“It was a dream for my mother for me to come here."

Ronald can't hold back the emotions any longer. As soon as those words leave his mouth, he chokes up in tears. For a brief few seconds, he's inconsolable.

"I always wanted to be here because of my mum and my grandmother," he sobs.

“They always knew that it was my dream to come here.”

It's a moment that offers a poignant insight into the scale of the journey so far traversed, and the burden of responsibility currently weighing on his young shoulders.

After all, since his arrival in January, Ronald has been heralded as the next potential star at Swansea City, and is already central to the new era under boss Luke Williams.

Williams himself vividly remembers the moment the player first came on his radar.

"The recruitment team brought this to me, and it gave me the opportunity to watch a lot of Ronald's footage, that then developed into me having a meeting with him," he says.

"Even through a laptop you could tell he was a guy with determination and grit. When I first watched Ronald play, he was playing on rough pitches against rough opposition.

"You could see he was a marked man and players were unforgiving with their challenges, but he stood up to that."

The making of a warrior

Rightly or wrongly, determination and grit aren't the sort of characteristics normally associated with a tricky Brazilian winger. So often British audiences subscribe to the stereotypes of 'Samba Football', a style known to ooze with audacious skill, trickery and sprinkling of confidence that borders on outright arrogance. The Brazilians call it 'ginga', which loosely translates to 'swing' or 'sway'.

The 22-year-old certainly carries aspects of all that in his game, but his resilience and ability to handle the sort of agricultural challenges common in the Championship has been just as eye-catching as his work with the ball at his feet.

"My resilience comes from being Brazilian," he smiles. "You have to be tough. I've been like that since I was a child. I really want to do the best for my family. I've always had that within me and that's where it comes from."

As one of five brothers, Ronald grew up in Corumbá, a small city on the border with Bolivia. Bathed by the Paraguay River, it's a city known for its rich forests and fauna, as well as a thriving mining community. It's a scenic part of the world, but one that places a great deal of value on the idea of earning what you're given.

Family has always been at the heart of the Brazilian's life - and career

As local radio presenter Jonas de Lima explains, Ronald wasn't any different.

"I remember him as a very hard-working boy who greatly valued his family," he explains. "He always dreamed of becoming a professional player to help his mother and brothers.

"To give you an idea of how unique a boy he is, even when he was very young, he took care of his grandmother, who was bedridden, when his mother needed to go out to work.

"He took great care of his grandmother and saw how difficult life is. This gave him strength, turned him into a warrior to the point of believing that giving up is not an option. That's why he moved on to give his family a better life and today he's doing it."

Growing up clearly wasn't easy for Ronald at times, but the burning love for his mother Laura and grandmother Maria became a non-negotiable constant following those formative years, which clearly goes a long way to explaining the man that's now landed in south Wales.

"Ronald's made most of the sacrifices that many other Brazilian boys have made," Rui Goncalves, an agent that helped broker the deal to Swansea adds. "Often not having enough meals for the day, often playing with broken football boots, often feeling the suffering in their home due to the lack of food or supplies, almost always having to truly mature before their time.

"A heavy burden is carried by many of these young boys from Brazil, they have to grow quickly."

Ronald with his grandmother Maria (centre) and mother Laura (right)

The first step

Such enforced maturity and steeliness soon started to manifest itself on the football pitch, and Ronald quickly became well known locally as a promising young player.

Ronald's footballing journey started during his time at José de Souza Damy, a public municipal school in the upper part of Corumbá. By the time he was 15, he was competing in competitions and tournaments, where he started to attract attention.

“I started playing football aged 11 or 12 in one of the projects in Corumbá," Ronald remembers.

“Before that I was just playing for fun in the street with my friends.

“We would go to other cities to play other teams. Then when I was 17 or 18, I got a call about going to play professionally for Corumbaense."

Corumbaense, the professional side in his home town, weren't the only ones to have taken an interest. Indeed, in another life, he might well have started out at one of the country's most famous clubs. However, not for the first time in his life, family overtook football.

"We were invited to do a trial there, and Ronald was well evaluated," Edevaldo Arruda Hurtado, one of Ronald's first coaches, remembers. "He actually passed at Corinthians. But at just 12 years old he couldn't stay, as he wasn't old enough to stay. He would have to stay in São Paulo but unfortunately he couldn't afford to stay there, as the family would have to move to São Paulo.

Ronald caught the eye as a youngster in his hometown of Corumba

"Then he returned to Corumbá, continued training until he was 16, where he was placed to compete in the under 17 state championship. That same year, the first-team coach asked for advice on some young players to come train with the squad. I nominated Ronald who ended up pleasing the coach by competing.

"Today there is a disciplined, educated, responsible and humble athlete, always dedicated to training, he has a family that has always supported him. He's always been talented since he was a boy, but I told him 'There's no point in having talent if you don't work'. And today the result is here, the result of your commitment and dedication."

It was an important step on a path that would later see him later enjoy stints Gremio Anapolis and Atletico Goianiense, where he would play in the top division of Brazilian football. But one goal was always at the forefront of his mind.

“It was always a dream to play in Europe," the 22-year-old says.

“Ever since I was a child, I grew up seeing the European players and also Brazilian players coming to Europe."

There was certainly no shortage of Brazilian players to idolise growing up. There seldom is in a country so fanatical about the beautiful game. But, interestingly, Ronald's inspiration came from somewhat further afield.

"Cristiano Ronaldo has always been an inspiration for me," he smiles. "Whenever I watched him on TV, I watched what he did. Everything that he did. I always watched him for motivation."

Ronald eventually signed for local side Corumbaense after a promising youth career

Rubbing shoulders with superstars

In the summer of 2022, Ronald finally got his wish, signing on loan for Estrela Amadora in the Portuguese second tier. At the time, he was still contracted to Gremio Anapolis, but this was nevertheless an important step in his career.

It was also a tough one to make, with the move meaning he had to leave his beloved family behind in Brazil, including his grandmother Maria, who was taken ill at the time.

“It was difficult to leave," he admits. "There were some family issues, with my grandmother. But thankfully everything is sorted and I am here now."

But despite those concerns, Ronald quickly impressed, and played an integral role in helping the club return to the Portuguese top flight for the first time in 14 years, netting five goals in 35 appearances.

As the sporting director Jose Faria points out, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone at the club with a bad word to say about him.

"He will obviously be remembered as a very important part of that team and always part of the story of how we got to the first division," he says.

"He arrived as a very shiny guy. A young guy who came from a very humble background in Brazil. He was a guy of few words. He didn't talk a lot. But he worked hard. At every moment. When we remember Ronald here, we can't say anything bad about him. He never gave us any problems. We took great care of him because of what was going on with his grandmother, which was a very difficult moment for him. But he continued to work hard and was so strong. Then the season obviously finished successfully, as we came up to the first division.

"He's a team player and sometimes guys who play in this position, they only think about themselves. Not with him.

"Ronald will always be in the story of Estrela Amadora."

After the club's promotion, Ronald was now rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in the game, including Angel Di Maria, Joao Neves and Pepe. It was a challenge he clearly relished.

"He came to Estrela with his yellow hair and we talked to him and told him that this wasn't going to be like Brazil," Faria adds. "Here, football is about working hard. Forget the Louis Vuitton shoes or anything like that. Work hard. He was very humble, and took it all on board. Every month he continued to develop and improving his understanding about what spaces to occupy and what decisions to make.

"It's very easy to like Ronald."

Angel Di Maria of SL Benfica with Ronald Pereira of CF Estrela da Amadora in action during the Liga Portugal Betclic match between SL Benfica and CF Estrela da Amadora

The happiest day

"I knew Swansea was a team that had been in the Premier League in the past and I think there's a possibility of us getting back there in the future.

"When I was talking to other Brazilians about it, they thought it would be the best opportunity for me and for my career."

Ronald still vividly remembers the emotions that came with hearing the news that Swansea had taken an interest in taking him to the Championship.

"It was the happiest day of my life," he says. "My mum started crying. It's the biggest step in my career so far.

“It has been OK adapting to British football because I was in Portugal and the style of football is quite similar, so that has not been such a big challenge.

“That has helped me adapt quickly. I haven’t had to make too many changes.

"It's not a problem for me. It's actually easier than Portugal. I'm aware of it and prepared for it. No problems.

"It's really helps me to hear the fans shouting my name, and to hear the support they're giving me. It's really important."

Joao Reis and Miguel Lopes were among the team-mates at Estrela to tell Ronald to take the plunge, and there's no shortage of misty-eyed pride from Lisbon at his start to life on these shores.

"We still follow him, and we are all very happy to see him succeeding at Swansea," Faria says, striking the sort of tone one would expect from a proud parent. "For me it's not a surprise, though. Ronald was a guy that would just spend all day trying to improve his game. I first saw him against Corinthians when he was still in Brazil in a full stadium. Completely full. And he scored a Panenka penalty. I remember thinking it was crazy. Completely crazy. I never thought that I would actually end up signing him the next season.

"I have to be honest. I think his stay in Swansea will be a short one. Not because Swansea aren't a good team. But I think his potential means he can go to another level and the Premier League."

Those back in his hometown clearly feel just as much delight in seeing one of their favourite sons coming good. None more so than his mother, Laura Alves.

Laura's support for her son has been unbreakable. So much so, there were times when she'd even forego going to work just to see him play.

"I was a mother who was always present in the lives of Ronald and my other children," she says. "Teaching them what's right and to respect all people.

"With all the difficulties we had, I never stopped supporting him and keeping his dream of being a footballer alive."

For Laura, who works as a general services assistant at the hospital in Corumbá, any further success from this point on is a bonus, although there are some believe Ronald could potentially one day achieve the highest honour Brazilian football has to offer - by eventually pulling on the famous gold and green jersey.

"I believe that the most difficult path he has ever walked," de Lima says. "He is a very talented and very persistent boy. If you never gave up during the hard path you walked, you won't do that now.

"His career should only grow and the dream of us Corumbaenses is to see him wear the Brazilian team's shirt."

Ronald himself admits he has ambitions of pushing to an even higher level - ideally with Swansea City.

"I really hope we do well next season," he says. "Not just for the players, but also for the fans. I really appreciate the support from them and it would be fantastic to go up again. We need to get as many points as we can for this season and then we can start next season as strong as we possibly can."

Those who know him, clearly aren't betting against Ronald one day strutting his stuff in the Premier League someday soon.

"There are still a few games left until the end of the Championship, let's see how things go for the team and for him as well," agent Goncalves concludes.

"Regarding the Premier League, my personal opinion is that Ronald can and should aspire to achieve this feat, it’s legitimate to have this desire, after all we are talking about the best league in the world, all players dreams to playing here and he is no different.

"The boy will get there, I have faith."