Manchester City v Chelsea: Fernandinho finds his feet to give City added power in race for the Premier League title

Midfielder is loving life in Manchester, he tells Ian Herbert, where he’s desperate to win the battle of the Brazilians in tonight’s Chelsea match that may decide who are champions

Some of the acclimatisation stories about Manchester City’s Brazilians are purely apocryphal. A good one about the £160,000-a-week Robinho regularly hailing a bus to make a two-mile trip across town to the Trafford Shopping Centre proved to be untrue, demonstrating that all that glittered about the playmaker was not gold.

Fernandinho is a different matter, however. You only have to compare the quality of his English now with six months ago to know that this individual is cemented into Manchester and the impression extends to his enthusiastic response to the story that he has taken to listening to local radio to help the language along.

“Yes, BBC Manchester, you are right,” he says. “I listen to the Manchester news on local radio. It has helped me learn English. I have it on when I am driving to training in the morning. I like the radio because it makes you listen. When you are talking to me in a room like this, I look at your lips and try to learn – but when you are listening on the radio you can’t see but you can hear...” Carlos Tevez he ain’t. It is no calamity that there’s no translator to help him navigate through this discussion of his team and their match against Chelsea on Monday night.

The difficult part of interpreting what Fernandinho  has to say belongs to us, not him, because he speaks rather faintly, though that is not a metaphor for his football. As a 28-year-old who had spent five years playing in the inconspicuous surrounds of Ukraine and won a mere five Brazil caps, Fernandinho seemed an improbable individual to add a more imposing quality to a City midfield which the club’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, rapidly concluded was in need of it. Yet there were hints of what City had signed in the 4-1 Manchester derby victory last autumn and then his two-goal match-winning display in City’s magisterial 6-3 victory over Arsenal in December which signalled his full arrival.

Manchester City v Chelsea: Jose Mourinho talks down Chelsea title hopes  

That Arsenal game revealed him to be a more imposing presence than Gareth Barry with more muscular strength to marshal the midfield and then drive forward beyond it. The challenge is to balance the defensive and attacking roles. “I get some chances to score but I do my job. When I go to sleep I put my head on the pillow and have a clear conscience,” he says.

On Sunday Gary Neville described the City system to which Fernadinho is integral as “energetic, high-intensity football with a twist of subtlety akin to what Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund delivered last season.” Though 4-4-2 football is seen as outdated these days, Fernandinho and Yaya Touré in central midfield were allowing Manuel Pellegrini to use that system, Neville argued.

These are midfield players “with power in their body strength and legs driving forward. It’s the job Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javier Martinez did for Bayern last season and Ilkay Gündogan and Sven Bender did at times for Dortmund,” he said.

There is no false modesty about this from Fernadinho. He knows he is delivering for Pellegrini and he wants Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari to see it for himself. With the knee injury sustained by Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva likely to keep him out until April, there is a feeling that the City player will be in the squad for Brazil’s friendly against South Africa in Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium next month, with Scolari’s 23-man World Cup squad to be announced only 63 days later.

“A lot of my rivals [for a Brazil place] are playing in the [Chelsea] game,” Fernadinho says, with his great friend and former Shakhtar Donetsk team-mate Willian in mind, as well as Ramires. “There is also Lucas and [Tottenham’s] Paulinho but those [Chelsea players] are the main guys in the frame for Scolari. He needs to watch this game!”

Monday night’s match-up with Ramires has the potential to be especially revealing. The two possess the same build, stamina levels and potential to enforce the midfield and connect it through sudden, rapid bursts into offensive areas. They first came up against each other when Shakhtar and Chelsea clashed in last season’s Champions League. As an integral performer in the October 2012 game at the Donbass Arena, Fernandinho emerged with the spoils in that one-to-one battle, as well as a 2-1 win, which partially explains Chelsea’s interest in him last  summer.

“There was some contact between Chelsea and Shakhtar but nobody from Shakhtar told me about it,” he says. “I was a little bit surprised because they already have Ramires.”

He takes issue with the notion that City play football with a Brazilian style. “I don’t think so,” he says. “I think it is more Spanish the way we play here.” The most successful Brazilian sides are more typically English because when Brazil try to keep the ball like Spain, it seems they do not play so well, he argues.

“You think about past World Cups… in 2006 it was a fantastic Brazil team, but we did not do so well that year. Quarter-finals. In 2010 the same, it did not go far either. Only the quarter-finals. But in 1994 and 2002 Brazil did not play the best football but they won the World Cup. Even though they did not play the best football they found a way to win.

“Back in Brazil they talk about the great teams they had in ’82 and ’86 – fantastic teams to watch, great players. But they didn’t win. You think about those players – Zico, Falcao. You could say they were the best team.  But they didn’t win.”

Which could conceivably be the danger for City: that Jose Mourinho’s more attritional team take the title, rather than Pellegrini’s – who are indisputably the best, man for man. “We pray that it won’t be. I don’t think so,” Fernandinho says. He cites City’s 2-0 win at Newcastle United last month. “It was a real battle. We had to fight – but we showed we can do that as well.” We are about to learn if the confidence of Brazil’s new Mancunian is built on solid foundations.

Battling Brazilian: Fernandinho's tackles

Fernandinho has taken little time to adapt to the abrasive nature of the Premier League. The Brazilian averages 3.3 successful tackles per match – only four players have more this season.

Average tackles:

M Schneiderlin (Southampton) 3.9

E Pieters (Stoke) 3.7

J Ward (Crystal Palace) 3.5

M Debuchy (Newcastle) 3.4

M Jedinak (Crystal Palace) 3.3

Fernandinho (Man City) 3.3

(Minimum 20 Prem starts)

The midfielder has scored three goals in 30 games for City – two in the 6-3 win over Arsenal in December and the opening goal in last month’s 3-2 win at Swansea. He has also been booked six times.


Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'