Fernandinho says his days playing street football in Brazil helped him develop into a versatile professional.
The 34-year-old has operated in a multitude of positions during a 17-year career, developing a reputation as one of the most trusted utility players in world football.
A world-class defensive midfielder, he has also played across the backline and in advanced midfield positions.
He says the unstructured nature of the matches he played in his formative years set the tone for his adaptability.
“In Brazil it’s very common for players to play on the street in barefoot,” he says. “They get plastic balls or whatever they can find and use their imagination to create a game of football.
“Sometimes it’s two against two, sometimes three against three. You get some one against one as well.
“I didn’t really understand the concept of having a position at that time.
"Sometimes I’d start in goal because I was the youngest, then I played in the backline. Sometimes I would play in midfield and attack and we would rotate so we could play in every position whilst having fun at the same time.
“That helped me a lot when I started to train to become a professional footballer.”
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Indeed, Fernandinho says it was only when he moved to Europe in 2005 that he first began to understand the discipline and structure require in top-level football.
Having spent three years at Atlético Paranaense in his homeland, he signed for Mircea Lucescu’s Shakhtar Donetsk, a move that saw him play Champion league football and win six Ukrainian Premier League titles.
He played numerous roles during his time at Shakhtar and began learning the intricacies of the game.
“When I arrived at Shakhtar, I noticed the differences from Atlético Paranaense in Brazil where the players moved a lot more on the pitch,” he said.
“So when I arrived at Shakhtar and took part in the training sessions, I realised I had to respect the positions a bit more.
“The coach would always ask you to stick to your designated position.
“I ended up playing a lot as a holding midfielder. After a while, I was used on the right flank, then on the left. Sometimes I played a more central role as a No. 10.
"It was normal for me when you consider I had moved around quite a lot when I was in Brazil, so it was quite easy to adapt to what the coach wanted.”
His move to City in the summer of 2013 saw him take his game to the next level.
He garnered a reputation as being one of the best midfielders in Europe, winning the Premier League and League Cup in his first season, forming a superb partnership with Yaya Toure.
“I came to City to play in those midfield positions,” he said. “I started as an advanced midfielder, and later I dropped back to play in the holding role – but I also played on the right wing at times.”
But he says it’s under the guidance of Pep Guardiola that he really learned how to play multiple roles.
“After Pep Guardiola’s arrival, my position varied more often,” he says. “I played as a right-back, a right-midfielder and a midfielder on the left, too. As a holding midfielder, a left-back and a centre-back on both sides.
“So the only positions I haven’t played in under Pep are the three attacking ones and as a ‘keeper.”
This season he has played regularly at centre-back, helping to ease City’s injury crisis.
He’s been superb – typically assured defensively and brilliant at starting attacks with his range of passing from deep.
“He asked me if I would help him and I agreed to it,” he said. “I said it wouldn’t be a problem because I’ve always been able to play in multiple positions throughout my career.”
On Tuesday, Fernandinho is likely to make his 85th Champions League appearance when Shakhtar visit the Etihad.
It’ll be the sixth time he’s faced his former side, something he says he enjoys, but he expects a difficult game against a side he feels always pose a threat.
“It’s pretty cool to take on a former club,” he says. “Every time we take on Shakhtar they are difficult games, I am sure the next one will be no different.”