Manchester City's Fernandinho isn’t fussed about flair!by William Odinga 21/04/2017 19:07:00 0 comments 1 Views
By Ian Ladyman for the Daily Mail
Published: 22:31 BST, 21 April 2017 | Updated: 00:07 BST, 22 April 2017
It's never a good idea to damn a footballer with faint praise. You never know what reaction you may get.
So maybe it was a risk suggesting to Fernandinho of Manchester City that he does not fit some of the more clumsy Brazilian stereotypes.
'My country is too big to have too many good players all of the same style of play,' Fernandinho smiled.
Manchester City's versatile midfielder Fernandinho does not fit some Brazilian stereotypes
But only David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling have played more for City this term
The 31-year-old has made 25 Premier League starts in Pep Guardiola's first season in charge
Fernandinho will be asked to to supplement City's thrilling attacking play against Arsenal
'You will have watched the national team of the 70s and 80s. Yes? They were exceptional players, very, very good. But midfield, my position, is very important, too, I think.
'Ten years ago a holding midfielder in Brazil would just defend. They cannot give a longer pass.
'Today things have changed and it's important to have good players in that position. It's a target to be like that.'
We could say Fernandinho has reached that target. In this topsy-turvy season at City, the 31-year-old has made 25 Premier League starts. Only David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling have played more and at Wembley on Sunday he is likely to be fundamental.
Manchester City versus Arsenal has a classic FA Cup semi-final ring to it. Both teams are designed to thrill yet both have obvious weaknesses. For City, Fernandinho will be asked to supplement the first bit and cover up the second.
When we met at City's training ground this week, he seemed unfazed by the challenge. 'I have the best of expectations,' he said in his excellent yet rather idiosyncratic English.
Fernandinho has scored two goals in 29 appearances for his country since his debut in 2006
The Brazilian midfielder and his City team-mates take on the Gunners at Wembley on Sunday
Born in Londrina, his path to the Premier League is one familiar to many South Americans
Fernandinho was at Shakhtar Donetsk when he received a ticket to the promised land in 2013
Four years on, the midfielder is one of the senior figures in Manchester City's thrilling team
'We have a great chance to be in the final of a great competition. It's one of the most beautiful competitions in Europe.
'It is a good game to play in because they like to play and we like to play. But without the ball it will be a challenge. Who will run more to recover the ball? Who will press more to win the ball? Both can play, we know that.
'They have the quality to play so it is about recovering the ball, taking the ball and starting to play our game.
'Who can do that best? We will find out.'
Talk to people who know Fernandinho and they will tell you of a quiet, modest guy. 'No fuss, never a problem, just a good lad,' said one person.
Born in the southern Brazilian city of Londrina, his path to the Premier League is one familiar to many South Americans. Three years with Atletico Paranaense in Brazil, eight with Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine and then, finally, a ticket to the promised land in 2013.
Fernandinho lives in Cheshire and is married with two young children. Life in England suits him
But his friends from when he played in Ukraine have been affected by the conflict with Russia
The midfielder knew people on the plane that crashed when carrying the Chapecoense squad
Married with two young children, life in England — he lives in Cheshire — has suited him. Recently, though, he had little choice but to look at the world through a different lens.
Friends in Ukraine have been affected by violent conflict with Russia and his old housekeeper in Donetsk cannot escape a city now reduced to rubble.
Meanwhile, a casual look at his mobile phone while on a day off in London last November changed a small part of who he is forever.
FERNANDINHO'S UP AND DOWN SEASON
Yellow cards: 6
Red cards: 3
Fernandinho and Arsenal defender Gabriel knew a number of the 71 people who died when a plane carrying the Brazilian football team Chapecoense crashed in Colombia. Two of the men had been particularly fundamental to his career.
'I checked the internet when I woke up that day and when I saw the news I was just really shocked, couldn't believe it,' he said.
'One guy was part of the national team, the physical manager. He was very young and he had all his dreams ahead.
'And we all knew the manager from my early career at Paranaense. He was working as a commentator and was on the plane. He was a very important man in my life, Mario Sergio. I was young and learned a lot of things from him. I learned not to fight against the many bad things in football and try to always battle through injuries.
'Most players get injured. But when you get the small injuries you have to fight against them and play, play, play.
'You know better than me that some players can get injured a little bit and say, 'I don't want to train, I don't want to play'.
'But back then I learned from Mario always to fight and I have carried this my whole life. You can check my history.
The Brazilian was speaking to Sportsmail's Ian Ladyman ahead of the FA Cup semi-final
He enjoyed some rough and tumble with 25 toddlers wearing 'City in the Community' shirts
The midfielder was helping out with the 'fundamental movement' workshop the club put on
Fernandinho has missed a total of seven domestic matches this season through suspension
'So of course his death was a hard moment for me but when something like that happens, you think straight away about the families.
'How are they going to live without their parents, sons, brothers and dads? But this is life isn't it? Three years ago I lost a friend in a car crash in Ukraine. He was 25. A Brazilian team-mate from Shakhtar, Maicon Oliveira.
'And of course I have friends still in Donetsk. The lady who worked for me at my house, Natasha, has six or seven children, so she is still there. She couldn't leave.
'She told me, 'They just send bomb, bomb, bomb into the city every day'.
'But I can't do anything, can I? I am far away.
'When these things happen you forget about your football and start to think about your life. You change some things and once again I think that I must try to live well and become a better person.'
Half an hour before our conversation, Fernandinho was out on pitch No 7 at City's training ground, lost in some particularly enthusiastic rough and tumble with 25 toddlers dressed in over-sized City in the Community T-shirts.
Visitors from the nearby Blackley Academy, the group of two to four-year-olds were taking part in a 'fundamental movement' workshop. City put the sessions on every week and as many as 3,000 of that age group take part. It's not every week they get to meet the players, though.
This is a big week for City but it doesn't seem to matter. Fernandinho's team-mate Fernando is also involved, while elsewhere on the campus that day England defender John Stones is taking part in another community session.
Back inside, players come and go. Sergio Aguero seems to be taking delivery of some new boots and Leroy Sane emerges, smiling. Only one man looks lost in thought as he briefly appears at the foot of the stairs. That is manager Pep Guardiola.
Fernandinho has received three red cards in an topsy-turvy season for Manchester City
The Brazilian has also been used on the right side of defence by his innovative new manager
Fernandinho has spent most of the season, however, in his familiar deep midfield position
'We have prepared well and we are ready,' says Fernandinho.
'When I was young and before I started to play football I was always calm. I don't see any point to change, you know.'
It has been a challenging first season under Guardiola. Nobody will admit it, but it has been more difficult than anyone imagined and Fernandinho, like everyone at the club, has had to adapt to the Spaniard's methods.
Having spent most of the season in his familiar deep midfield position, the Brazilian has also played at right back. Asked if there is one specific thing he has taken on board from Guardiola, Fernandinho said: 'He has his way to play and that's a fact.
'When he joined us he told us he would like to play like this. All the players understand that and see that it is the best way. If you watch the first games of the season we were flying.
'But after that the opponents changed the way they play, with and without the ball.
The 31-year-old is a pragmatic thinker about football and says for City 'the philosophy is there'
Pep Guardiola has not been afraid to try unusual formations in his short time in Manchester
But Fernandinho admits implementing Guardiola's methods 'depends on your body, too'
He learned to play many different roles while training at the Parana Technical Soccer Centre
'They put five players in the middle and close all the space and suddenly we couldn't create chances. But the way we are playing now is better.
'For us the philosophy is there. Sure, in some games it goes a little bit wrong. But football doesn't depend just on your brain.
'It's not like on a computer. It depends on your body, too, and sometimes you are tired.
'Sometimes the opponent closes the space very well and marks you very well. Football depends on many things, not just on you.'
Clearly a pragmatic thinker about football, Fernandinho's ability to play different roles was engrained in him as a youngster at the Parana Technical Soccer Centre near Londrina.
The 31-year-old midfielder joins in the fun with the toddlers as part of 'City in the Community'
Fernandinho has shown his importance to Pep Guardiola's side on the pitch this season
And he was doing good work off the pitch before chatting with Sportmail's Ian Ladyman
'I started to play there for a manager called Leandro Niehues and he played similar to Pep in terms of his build-up and players playing in different positions,' he said.
'We had a good team and I learned to play in different positions from the beginning. So it's not a problem now. What happened back then made me.'
Londrina, incidentally, is a good 300 miles inland. So images of Fernandinho learning his football on the beach can be discarded. Another stereotype smashed.
'I was poor and never had any money to go to the beach,' he smiled.
'It was hundreds of miles away.So the first time I went to the beach I was 15 years old and that was to play a tournament there. I went with my team-mates.
'The first time I went to the beach to have some fun with my friends, family or girlfriend I was 19. So that just wasn't part of my life.'
This season, City in the Community celebrates 30 years of making a difference to the lives of local people in Manchester.