After a lengthy ban from the game, the Shakhtar man has starred in Europe and now has Roma in his sights as he plots his journey to the World Cup
When Shakhtar Donetsk host Roma on Wednesday night in the first-leg of their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie, all eyes both home and abroad will be on Brazil international Fred.
The midfielder has attracted admiring glances from all over the continent over the past year, most notable from Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola.
All reports suggest Fred came very close to joining the runaway Premier League-leaders last month, and he’s been the standout performer in Shakhtar’s run to the Champions League knockout stages, which included a 2-1 victory over City in the group stage.
"We spoke quickly at the end of the game,” Fred tells Brasil Global Tour.
“We won and we ended up with an unbeaten record of more than 30 games. Pep came to praise our performance and congratulated me personally, and I also made a point of praising his team.
“It was nothing more, it was all very brief. Everything else about my possible transfer to City, I only know what I’ve read in the media. I try not to worry about it.”
In addition to the admiration from Manchester, Fred has also impressed Brazil coach Tite, who included him in the 23-man squad for World Cup qualifiers against Bolivia and Chile in October last year.
It was a watershed moment for a player who had not long returned from a long suspension after testing positive for banned substance hydrochlorothiazide in a sample taken during Copa America 2015.
"I was delighted to be called back into the Brazil squad. I think it was one of the most exciting moments of my life, just because of everything I had been through and it feeling like a had been given a second chance.
“It was a sign that I was back and had recovered my form on the pitch. It was pleasing to see that being recognised by Tite and his staff. To be able to come back for the final qualifiers was really great. The World Cup squad is not yet final and I will do everything in my power to make it to Russia.”
Key to his chances will be performing on the big stage, when everyone is watching. Tite and has staff have travelled the globe ensuring they take a proper look at everyone in contention for the World Cup squad, but Kharkiv remains a long way from Rio and Ukrainian football isn’t as visible as other leagues that house much of the current squad.
And Wednesday night’s clash also pits him against current Brazil No.1 Alisson, who will be keeping goal for Roma.
"It has everything to be a great match. We are in good form, but we face a strong team with great tradition and with quality players, such as Alisson.
“We know how difficult it will be, but we are prepared. And when we play well for our clubs, especially in important competitions like the Champions League, we stand out,” says Fred.
“My future with the Selecao depends on how well I do my job here, and that’s all I’m trying to do."
With only one of the three reserve places available to central midfielders taken, Fred knows he remains in contention for the World Cup and is desperate to return to what found to be a harmonious and confident group.
"The team is very good, the quality is extremely high, and the mood is the best possible, all thanks to Tite, who has created a comfortable environment.
“He is a great coach who demands a lot, but also knows how to communicate with his players and is always there to guide everyone in the right direction.
“Brazil have had a great qualification process and have all the ingredients to have a fantastic World Cup, even though it’s a short tournament anything can happen in that month.
“The fans are behind the team again and that has given great confidence to the players. Brazil are definitely one of the favourites.”
Less than three years ago, it was difficult to imagine that Fred would be anywhere near a World Cup finals tournament. His long ban was a test of his resolve, both as an athlete and as a person. He leaned heavily on his family as he returned to Brazil to train alone after a positive test he insists still baffles him.
"I have always been an extremely professional guy with everything,” he says. “I would never do anything that would harm me, and I am totally against using any kind of resource, illicitly, to benefit myself in any way.”
Fred has since hired his own personal biochemist to ensure there will never be another positive test, and retains the physical trainer who helped him through his period away from the game.
“They were both a huge source of motivation for me.”