Time for Fabinho? Why the wait may be over for Klopp to unleash €50m Brazilian

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Jurgen Klopp has been patient with the Reds' new midfield star but injuries to Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita will likely force his hand

“I don’t like to tell too many old stories,” began Jurgen Klopp. “But…”

The Liverpool boss had been asked about Fabinho, and when we might expect to see the Reds’ new €50 million (£43m/$58m) signing on a regular basis.

It’s been a fairly consistent question, in fairness, and one which Klopp has been consistent with when answering. Patience, patience, patience has been the message. Panic? Not here.

This time, though, came something different. He used the example of Ilkay Gundogan, whom he took to Borussia Dortmund as a 20-year-old in 2011, and who went on to become one of Europe’s most distinguished midfield players under his guidance.

“He didn't play for half a year,” Klopp pointed out. “The only difference was he was a young player from Nurnberg and no-one asked about him.

“He asked, but he was not in the squad. He had a lot of difficult moments.”

A fair comparison? Not entirely. Gundogan, for example, had started 10 games for Dortmund by this stage of his debut season. As Liverpool prepare to face Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League this evening, Fabinho waits for his second. His only one to date came in the Carabao Cup against Chelsea last month. His team were beaten.

In total, the Brazilian has made four appearances, totalling 123 minutes. He's the club's fifth most expensive signing ever, but his Premier League debut came only on Saturday, a second-half run out as Liverpool edged past Huddersfield Town in a dog of a contest.

Fabinho Liverpool 2018

Klopp, in fairness, has at least been consistent. From Fabinho’s first week on Merseyside, he has preached caution. While some – Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Gini Wijnaldum – could be trusted to hit the ground running at Anfield and thrust straight into the starting XI, others require more careful treatment. Fabinho, Klopp said, would need time, just as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andy Robertson had before him. It was winter time before those two became a regular fixture in the side last season, remember.

Fabinho, too, has been relaxed about the situation, despite his obvious desire to play a bigger role at some point.

"Of course I want to play,” he told Goal recently. “However, I know I am on a new team in a new league, and it has its period of adaptation.

“I am working and I am calm, waiting for my moment to arrive.”

Well, it looks like his moment has arrived now. With both Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita ruled out with hamstring issues, Fabinho looks set to start against Red Star. A chance to show what he can do, to show what he's been working on at Melwood.

“It's his birthday today by the way," Klopp said on Tuesday. "So it would be a nice present, eh?

“I didn't make the line up yet but of course it is very important for us that he's been here for a few months already and has got used to a few things. We'll use him.”

Fabinho, of course, has good pedigree in the Champions League. His performances for Monaco in the 2016-17 season, when he helped them to the semi-finals, were enough to confirm Liverpool’s interest. And like Kylian Mbappe, Benjamin Mendy, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Bernardo Silva, Joao Moutinho and Thomas Lemar from that side, he eventually got his move. Since then, it has been about adjusting, learning, listening, waiting.

“If you watch Fabinho playing at Monaco, full of confidence,” Klopp said.

“You come to a new club and it depends a bit on your personality. He's not the loudest person on the planet. It's not that he's come in and said: 'Sit down all of you and I'll explain how we do it at Monaco because we were in the Champions League semi-final the year before and became French champions'.

“He is more a rather reserved person - looking, watching, absorbing, and it always takes a little bit more time. But on the pitch, he is back now and that's good. You only have to watch a few YouTube videos of him. It's not important what summary of a Monaco season you watch because he was good in all of them!

“He has all the qualities. Hard challenges, good offensively, defensively quick, good shooter, fantastic set-pieces, good header, all these things. He's good strategically too in the right moment.

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“We just play differently, a different system, and that's what always needs time to adapt.”

Now, the adaptation period is coming to its end. Red Star may not be Paris Saint-Germain or Napoli, or Manchester City or Tottenham, but they are a lively opponent and a win for Liverpool puts them in a commanding position to qualify for the knockout stages. Anfield expects.

The time has come to see what Liverpool have bought for their money.

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