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Fernandinho: The ultimate players' player

MIDDLE MARCH: Fernandinho takes on Lyon's Nabil Fekir

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As compliments go, Pep Guardiola’s verdict on Fernandinho’s contribution and importance to Manchester City is surely up there with the most glowing to be bestowed upon a player.

Asked to pass comment on Brazilian midfielder after the latest in a series of stand-out performances earlier this season, the Manchester City manager was unequivocal in his praise.

“He is a gift, to have him. He is a guy who will have minutes to rest,” said the City manager after our 2-1 win over Newcastle last month.

“He is so important. Last season he was a key player for us.”

There is also little doubt that Pep’s verdict would be echoed long and loud in the Blues’ dressing room.

Ferna may not always garner the headlines and attention bestowed on several of his more high-profile team-mates – but his value to the City cause is incalculable.

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Because, in so many ways, Fernandinho is the invisible glue that binds City’s many strands together.

A steady metronomic presence operating deep at the heart of City’s side, Fernandinho has perfected the alchemy of being a destructive midfield force but one who is also capable of helping orchestrate City’s rapier attacking thrusts.

He blends silk and steel in exemplary fashion – and it has been that way ever since Ferna joined the Blues from Shakhtar Donetsk back in the summer of 2013.

Having established a reputation as one of Brazil’s most promising young talents during three years with Atletico Paranaense, Ferna then signed for Shakhtar Donetsk in 2005 in a bid to further his career.

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A world away from Brazil in distance, culture and climate, Fernandinho overcame a number of hurdles to establish himself with his new club.

He remained with Shakhtar for eight years, winning 14 medals including the UEFA Cup and six Ukrainian Premier League titles, while honing his craft on the Champions League stage before then making his move to Manchester.

It’s fair to say he made an instant impact under then manager Manuel Pellegrini, going on to make 41 appearances in his debut campaign at the Etihad as he helped City claim both the Premier League and Carabao Cup.

He has carried on that in rich vein ever since, going on – to date – to make more than 230 appearances for the Club and, once again, proving a key component in our record-breaking 2017/18 campaign.

The fact that Pep – a wonderful midfielder operator himself during his distinguished playing career with Barcelona and Spain – says that Ferna would have kept him out of the team in his own playing days is perhaps the ultimate compliment.

"Pep said I would keep him out of the team because he was asked if he would play in the Manchester City team of 2017-18," Fernandinho, 32, revealed while on duty with Brazil at this summer’s World Cup finals.

"He said 'no', as, from his view, I'm better than he was when he played."

One facet that does undoubtedly separate Fernandinho from Pep is his versatility.

Though the 32-year-old is primarily deployed as a defensive midfielder, the ultimate selfless player, Ferna is also happy to play further forward as well as a centre-back depending on the needs of the team.

Always with Fernandinho it’s about the collective rather than the individual. Another trait that has endeared him to Guardiola.

"This thing about me playing in many positions, that is something I've always had since I was very young," Fernandinho added.

"The ability of understanding what the coach wants, what he asks, and that's helped me a lot during all my career.

"If the coach needs me to play in a different position, I can do it."

That, in a nutshell, is the very essence of Fernandinho. The ultimate player’s player.

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