Captain, leader, legend: Fernandinho making a big impact off the field at Manchester City

Captain, leader, legend: Fernandinho making a big impact off the field at Manchester City

Manchester City do not need Fernandinho as they once did. Time passes, teams evolve.

But away from the public gaze, they have relied upon him like never before. As captain for the first time, this group of players are under his charge and, at 35, he realised this season — potentially a last hurrah at the Etihad — was one in which he could still leave an indelible mark.

Fernandinho is unlikely to start the last-16 first leg on Wednesday night in Budapest, against a Borussia Monchengladbach side City ought to dispatch from the Champions League with little fuss. He might not start when West Ham roll into town on Saturday.

Yet he did at Arsenal on Sunday, masterfully treading that line between niggly and classy; proof — if it were ever required — that Pep Guardiola can drop him into one-off games without fear.

Guardiola will want that capability in the next few months, particularly while City fight on four fronts.

'What a game. Incredible. I will always remember him,' he enthused at the Emirates. Beyond that, what has become apparent in recent weeks is the impact Fernandinho is having on this squad behind the scenes.

The decision to dish out home truths in a players-only meeting after their last defeat, 25 games ago at Tottenham, is now seen as something of a turning point in the campaign.

'We needed this speech to find where we were making mistakes,' said the Brazilian. 'I tried to show them our responsibility to represent Manchester City, what they expect from us, what the fans expect from us. It was a very frank conversation.'

Guardiola has no say over who takes the captaincy at the beginning of each year. Fortunately for him, Fernandinho won the most votes among the squad last summer. Perhaps it came a year too late.

The previous incumbent, David Silva, is many wonderful things — mesmeric on the ball, wise off it — but a captain he is not. Not the one City needed, anyway, given he replaced the gladiatorial Vincent Kompany. Key people around the team have admitted as such since Silva left for Real Sociedad in the summer.

'I knew I'd have fewer opportunities for games than in the past,' said Fernandinho during a fascinating chat with Brazil's TNT Sports. 'So I tried to put myself in a position that I would be more useful than just to play.'

The midfielder spent the first two months of the campaign pulling players aside in quiet moments and discussing with Guardiola where the team were failing, before picking his opportunity to go for it after the loss at Spurs.

Fernandinho felt he had gained enough trust to speak up. Key to that was that the players had seen a forthright exchange between the captain and manager in the dressing room after a 5-2 home embarrassment against Leicester City. They saw someone fighting for them. And the manager saw someone fighting for the team.

That realisation dawned as the haze lifted. The problems were not eradicated overnight and went way into December, but there was at least a common cause.

On Tuesday Ilkay Gundogan spoke about how the skipper conducts himself. 'He is a real leader,' said Gundogan. 'He just gives us the right things at the right time.'

Gundogan makes Fernandinho's role sound effortless, which obviously it is not.

It takes work and, even without being the first-choice holding midfielder, he is still laying the foundations for victory, still acting as the spine. Selflessness has always been his genius.

There is also genius in how he has now adapted.


Original Story on: GhanaSoccernet

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