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'One of the greatest players in Man City's history' - New deal for Fernandinho a no-brainer for Guardiola

09:00 SAST 2020/01/12
Fernandinho, Man City
The 34-year-old has just six months remaining on his contract but all parties want him to stay at the Etihad Stadium

Fernandinho was the last to leave the pitch at Old Trafford following Manchester City's Carabao Cup destruction of neighbours United.

The captain led his players to the away end to join in the celebrations after the champions had taken a big step towards a third successive triumph with a 3-1 derby win.

As he walked off, Fernandinho turned to punch the air in response to the supporters loudly chanting his name to the tune of the Ottawan hit song 'D.I.S.C.O.'.

While the City faithful were delighted by the attacking quality that pulled apart United's defence, they were equally appreciative of the wily veteran, who cleverly shut down the speedy counter-attacking threat of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.

For half a season, the Brazilian has plugged the significant gap in the centre of defence left by the departure of influential skipper Vincent Kompany and a serious injury to Aymeric Laporte.

With John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi suffering their own minor fitness setbacks, along with dips in form, Fernandinho has emerged as City's most reliable centre-back for the past four months.

Pep Guardiola trusts him implicitly. Deployed at the base of the midfield for the Catalan's first three seasons at the club, Fernandinho quickly adjusted to the heavy demands of fulfilling such a role in a Guardiola team.

In the first season, when results were not going City's way, Guardiola refused to take a more pragmatic defensive approach, such as adding an extra player in central midfield. Fernandinho nonetheless bought into the philosophy and the team reaped the rewards in the next two record-breaking campaigns.

Now, with the arrival of club-record signing Rodri to offer cover and support in front of the back four, Guardiola has trusted Fernandinho to move back into the centre of defence.

It hasn't always gone well and the City boss has experimented to try to find that solid base for his attacking game. Even if stationed in a back-three or on the less comfortable left-hand side of a centre-back pairing, Fernandinho has embraced the challenge wholeheartedly.

With six months remaining on Fernandinho's current contract, Guardiola is in no doubt that one of his most trusted lieutenants deserves a new deal.

“He didn’t have to convince me," the City boss insisted. "He convinced me on day one of the three years together.

“He knows the opinion we have about what he’s done at the club. He's one of the greatest players this club has had in its whole history.”

Fernandinho is on course to meet the obligations to automatically trigger a contract renewal, but those goals are largely irrelevant. City want to reward him with an extension anyway - and Fernandinho wants to remain.

The Premier League champions have already opened talks with the player and his representatives and a new deal is likely to be announced in the next few weeks.

Fernandinho turns 35 in May but despite being able to talk to any club across Europe, he is happy in Manchester.

Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain were among the clubs showing an interest in a free transfer, but he is settled in Manchester and his family's happiness was a key consideration for a man who left his hometown of Londrina with barely a word of English.

Family has always been a major factor in his life since developing a love for the game from his father and taking his baby sister with him to football training as a teenager.

He's also something of a father figure to the young Brazilians at the club, helping Gabriel Jesus, Ederson and previously Danilo and Fernando settle in the city.

His team-mates have no doubts about his quality. “Dinho can play everywhere. Since I came here, he’s been really underrated," Kevin De Bruyne said after the win at United.

“For me, he was one of the best defensive midfielders in the world and now he just comes in as a central defender and does what he does.

“Props to him, because obviously he is 34 and it’s not easy to play a new position, especially when you’ve never done it in the 14 years before that. He has done brilliantly."

Fernandinho, meanwhile, believes the position has turned him into a better player.

"In defence, I see the game in a different way," he explained. "It has been very cool and the guidance I have received from Pep has been very good.

"At 34, playing in the Premier League is a source of pride. Many, many players wanted to be experiencing what I am experiencing."

This season's Premier League challenge may be effectively over and the Champions League will become the focus for City when the competition restarts in February.

To have any chance at a resurgent Real Madrid in the last 16, Guardiola is certain to turn to the experience of senior players such as De Bruyne, David Silva and Fernandinho.

But if Europe is to remain a frustration again, Fernandinho will be back hungry as ever next year to land silverware.

"The desire to win trophies should be in the heart and in the mind," he stated at Old Trafford, perfectly underlining just why everyone at City is so desperate for him to stay.