His life was comfortable in France, fluent in the language and a guaranteed starter for a side used to competing near the top of Ligue 1 and playing in Europe.
A complete contrast to Newcastle, whose precarious Premier League position at the start of 2022 put off many transfer targets – but not this one.
The 24-year-old saw United’s adversity as an opportunity to make a name for himself as the flagship signing of an ambitious new project on Tyneside.
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"Playing in the Premier League is my dream,” he admits.
"Newcastle is a great club, an interesting project and I’m excited by the plans and the faith everyone has put in me. Hopefully I can keep repaying that.”
The compelling lure of the English top flight combined with Newcastle’s long-term plans to compete at the top of it once again was enough to quickly convince the Brazilian to make the £33.3million move.
First United would have to survive in the Premier League. They sat 19th having only recently won their second match in 21 league games when Guimaraes’ arrived.
"I loved the challenge [of staying in the Premier League],” he adds. “That was a big motivator for me.
“I want to be challenged as a player and now we have [achieved safety] we can take the next step. Everything is here for us to improve.”
On and off the pitch, the Brazilian isn’t one to do things in half measures. Although there was a chance he could be a Championship player in a World Cup year, he embraced his new surroundings.
Shortly after Guimaraes and his partner Ana moved into their new home on Tyneside, the midfielder brought his pet Labrador, Mel, and Golden Retriever, Ragnar, over from France.
The couple are also expecting their first child, Matteo, later this year and will be planning to raise him as a Geordie.
It’s clear Guimaraes is a family man every time he dons the No.39 shirt – a tribute to his dad’s taxi number. Proud parents, Dick and Marcia, have shown their support by flying over to England to watch their son in Premier League action.
Guimaraes’ teammate and compatriot Joelinton – whom the only child describes as his ‘brother’ – has proven particularly useful in helping him settle in.
"Joelinton has helped me a lot,” he smiles. “I spend a lot of time with him and on the pitch we work very well together I think.
“Since I arrived, he has surprised me [as a midfielder], he works so hard!”
Guimaraes also discovered a small taste of home at the Rio Brazilian steakhouses in Jesmond and on the Quayside, two establishments he now frequents.
"[Newcastle] is a beautiful city,” the 24-year-old says. “I feel at home here and I thank the fans for that too.
"The affection they have shown me since I arrived has been amazing.”
That off-field comfort quickly translated into on-field success. Despite being limited to off-bench cameos in his first five Newcastle games, Guimaraes emphatically announced himself on the Premier League stage with a flick of Brazilian magic on his first start down at Southampton.
A back-heel volley secured a crucial 2-1 win as Newcastle took a big step towards safety.
From there, Newcastle and Guimaraes rarely looked back with the Brazilian netting a further four goals as United won six of their final eight matches to finish 11th.
“I didn’t expect to score [five] but I’m very happy to help the team in this way,” he adds. “Every goal was special to me.”
In that time, Guimaraes’ determination to learn English quickly has been apparent. He hopes to be fluent in the language in the coming months.
Early requests to interview the midfielder in English without the support of a translator were met by a reluctant grimace as he modestly claimed ‘my English is still a bit short!’
To his credit, Guimaraes – who is already fluent in Portuguese, French and Spanish at 24 – still jumped in at the deep end and competently conversed with reporters in English despite only being in the country a matter of months.
But when speaking to The Gazette following the conclusion of the 2021-22 campaign, it’s clear that those fast-track English lessons are paying off.
"It is incredible what we have done,” Guimaraes says. “It was a big decision in my career to come here when the club was in the relegation [zone], but a great decision and the best decision for me because we have been able to do so well.
"I had to wait [to start] but it has been amazing to help the team in this way.
"It was sometimes difficult but we did our job. We are happy and the most important thing for me and the club is that we had a go and we got it.”
The £33.3million fee paid for Guimaraes has proven to be a bargain – although Newcastle’s Premier League survival and triggered add-ons will likely see that figure rise to £40million.
“I’ve improved a lot as a player since I’ve been here,” the 24-year-old claims. “The Premier League is a different challenge for me but I’m really happy and I think this has been the best season in my career.
“I enjoy the challenge, everything has been amazing and I’m really looking forward to next season.”
Since joining Newcastle, Guimaraes hasn’t been shy about his ambitions.
“I’m hoping next season we can look at the Europa League and I want to play in the Champions League here, but we’ll take things step by step,” he says.
"The confidence from [last] season has been amazing, the guys have worked so hard and we are very happy about where we are and the future.
“I want to be a legend here, win trophies and help the team become the best possible.”