The announcement towards the end of last month that Manchester City’s Fernandinho had signed a one-year contract extension keeping him at the club until the summer of 2021 has been very warmly received by City fans, their delight at the news acting as both an acknowledgement of the Brazilian’s importance and an indicator of his immense popularity.
Ever since his arrival from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013, the midfielder has been greatly admired for his tenacity and wholeheartedness; covering every blade of grass on a weekly basis in the seeking out and attaining of silverware.
For several seasons he was the box-to-box dynamo who instilled impetus and energy and a much-needed bit of needle into a side that perhaps lacked these traits elsewhere, yet it is too easy to stereotype him as the old-school type who Roy Keane and Graeme Souness weirdly think Paul Pogba should be: Fernandinho after all is a Brazilian with 53 caps for the national side and also possesses all the attacking attributes Paul Pogba should have.
His passing has never been anything less than measured and purposeful – as his 88% career passing accuracy certainly attests to. His movement both on and off the ball is lightning quick but never frantic. In his six and a half seasons in the Premier League, ‘Ferna’ has recorded 25 assists and scored 23 goals. He is then an all-rounder of the very highest regard.
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As recently as last season the ageing star was included in the PFA Team of the Year, but in truth for every year he has worn a sky blue shirt City fans wouldn’t have swapped him for any player of his type in the world.
And while the past decade has seen legends emerge at the Etihad in the form of Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero it should not be under-estimated how close Fernandinho gets to them. He is held in the loftiest esteem and genuinely loved.
For all of his battling pedigree a tactical acumen and absorbing of Pep Guardiola’s intricate demands has increasingly come to the fore in recent years making him even more of a pivotal figure in the Catalan’s revolution.
His influence over proceedings last season has already been alluded to and can be further illustrated by the fact that an injury sustained mid-campaign coincided with two unexpected defeats in quick succession. His return meanwhile brought about an astonishing run of 14 straight victories that led to City’s title retention.
Age, however, was becoming a problem. Fernandinho turned 34 last summer and no man can defy the way of the world so it was hardly a surprise when Guardiola splashed out a club-record £62.8m on Rodri to add competition for the holding role. What did surprise was the converting of the veteran to centre-back, a position he has played before but certainly not to any great extent.
City have had all kinds of trouble at the back this term – a point that has hardly been missed by the media and public alike – but very little can be attributed to Fernandinho.
He has been as largely immaculate there as further forward and this is why Riyad Mahrez’s mistaken belief pre-Christmas that his teammate was due to leave in the summer was greeted with such horror, while confirmation of the error on January 28th was received with joy.
It would be a considerable waste to teach an old dog new tricks then send him to the pound, especially one who most definitely has plenty of bark and bite left in him yet.