Fernandinho could end his Manchester City career on the highest of highs in Saturday’s Champions League final against Chelsea – if he decides to leave.
When City signed a 28-year-old midfielder who had spent his whole career in Brazil and Ukraine back in 2013, people might have wondered how much value they were going to get for the £30m fee they gave Shakhtar Donetsk.
But he has been an unqualified success in eight seasons in Manchester – lifting the Premier League trophy for the fourth time on Sunday (and the first time as permanent captain).
“It was a really special moment,” he told BBC Radio Manchester. “If I look back eight years ago when I signed here and say ‘oh I’m going to be captain one day to lift that trophy’, it would never have come to my mind.”
He has not played as much football this season – but has still had a huge role on and off the pitch. His contract comes to an end next month with no decision yet made on his future.
How Fernandinho turned round early doubts to become a legend
Fernandinho recently won his fourth Premier League title and has won the League Cup a joint-record six times (level with Sergio Aguero).
Boss Pep Guardiola called him one of the best players in the club’s history last year.
His former Manchester City team-mate Micah Richards said on BBC Radio 5 Live: “I remember when Fernandinho first came to City from Shakhtar.
“In pre-season we were doing some ridiculous run and he was sick. So we were thinking, how can your midfield maestro be throwing up after one run?
“Sometimes when people come, the whole spotlight is on them – you can be very judgmental. You are looking for the strengths at times but the weaknesses as well. So after that, we were like ‘we’ve signed another one who won’t be able to keep up’.
“And then we got the balls out and I was like ‘wow’ and straight away I knew he was going to do what he’s done. He’s 35 now and he’s still reading the game like he was when he first came. He’s such an intelligent footballer and he never gives the ball away.”
Since Fernandinho moved to England, he has won more games than anybody else in the Premier League (171 of his 245 games). He has also completed more passes (13,896).
He ranks only behind Chelsea pair Cesar Azpilicueta and N’Golo Kante on tackles with 577, and fourth on tackles won (400). His 18,909 touches are only behind Azpilicueta.
The Brazilian is fifth for duels won (1,413) and eighth for the times he has won possession (1,383). Only five players have been involved in more clean sheets (71).
Fernandinho is ninth on interceptions (372) and has conceded more fouls than anybody else in the Premier League since his debut (345).
“I don’t think there is anyone in world football who is better at a tactical foul, apart from Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets,” said Rory Smith of the New York Times on the BBC Radio 5 Live Monday Night Club.
One of Fernandinho’s many attributes is his versatility. He is a holding midfielder by trade – but has played in every position except goalkeeper and forward under Pep Guardiola.
He also offers a threat when he goes forward – with 18 goals and 18 assists, including two for Sergio Aguero on the final day – in 245 Premier League games.
The moment that turned City’s season around?
Captain Fernandinho – despite not being a first-team regular any more – had a big part in their revival this season.
City were eighth, seven points behind Liverpool, at the end of 2020.
He called a players’ meeting at 7am on New Year’s Day.
“It’s not easy to find those words in those kind of moments. It was a really frank conversation – no speech – and I think they got it because I am one of them as well,” he said.
“I have the same issues they have sometimes – the same doubts they have – as I always say to them ‘I am in the same boat as you’. I think everyone understood that because of the quality they have and that was what was missing – some kind of good behaviour and good attitude and some actions.
“After that everything changed and the result speaks for itself.”
City won their next 18 games (having won the previous three before the meeting), walked away with the title and are in the Champions League final as a result. Of teams in Europe’s top five leagues, only Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have ever had a longer winning run in all competitions.
Ex-Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha, said: “He’s a serial winner and the type of player you want to play with. The respect he has – there are certain people I have played with who try to call crisis meetings and people laugh them out of the room.
“But here’s a guy, when he speaks, people listen. He’s a huge part of the identity of the football club.”
City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan said: “I really cannot express how important Fernandinho is to us as a group.
“He is immense. Obviously he didn’t get as much game time as others in the squad this season but he knows his role, his responsibility, and what he has to say at the right times, as well.
“A leader is maybe not the one scoring the goals, playing every minute or with the best passing rate, it is the one who knows what to say in the bad moments and to understand his personal role.”
Will he stay at City?
Fernandinho, now 35, has made his fewest appearances for City in a season (even if he plays against Chelsea). He has played 35 games in all competitions but has only managed 1,181 minutes in the Premier League. Last season he played 2,398 minutes in the league.
He said: “My contract finishes next month but I spoke to the club before and we both chose to come back and talk about my contract after the end of the season. We will see what is going to happen.
“I try to live day by day so I don’t think it’s fair for me and for everyone around me to think about the future and start to make plans but you never know what could happen tomorrow.”