Saturday 28 June 2014
Following Fernando's transfer from Porto to Manchester City we caught up with European football expert Tor-Kristian Karlsen to find out more about the Brazil-born midfielder. And according to AS Monaco's former sporting director, City have succeeded in purchasing a player unlike any other midfielder in the English top flight whose mobility and steely presence will ensure the Barclays Premier League champions will be even harder to beat next season.
Premierleague.com: What kind of player has Fernando been at Porto?
Tor-Kristian Karlsen: He has been one of the most solid and important players at Porto. He's the one who usually sits back and it's thanks to him that they have been able to play attacking football. He is very disciplined, and keeps the defensive balance.
"He was linked with big teams from Italy, France and Spain but he wanted to play in the Premier League – that was his big ambition"
PL.com: So there's no one to compare him to playing in the BPL at the moment.
TK: Not really. He's the kind of player you used to see a lot of 10 or 15 years ago because now the way teams are set up, often with just two in the middle, they seem to prefer players who are box-to-box types. His role is similar to the one Luiz Gustavo plays for Brazil, or even Gilberto Silva used to have at Arsenal. He's the kind of player, like Dunga or Javier Mascherano, who you don't see any more. That's why he's had so many suitors. He was linked with big teams from Italy, France and Spain but he wanted to play in the Premier League. That was his big ambition.
PL.com: Do you think the arrival of Fernando will alter their attacking style?
TK: I would assume with Fernando's introduction City might switch the tactics around. Adding a holding midfielder might be a move to strengthen the squad and he is a player with huge Champions League experience as well, which could be another reason. Maybe in Europe Man City suffered in midfield, maybe lacking a ball-winner and someone with defensive discipline across the middle, especially after Gareth Barry left. So it's going to be very interesting to see how they set up the team now.
Last season City were brilliant until just before Christmas and on course to break every scoring record but at the same time they always looked a bit exposed. Fernandinho can do a holding role but he is predominantly a box-to-box player, so he and Yaya Toure always want to go forward, running with the ball and wanting to get into the box. That left the two City centre-backs exposed, and was one of the reasons Vincent Kompany did not look quite as dominant as previously. So Fernando might rectify that particular problem.
But nowadays anyway there is no set way that teams will play nor is there a set formation. It's interesting to play around with ideas of how the XI is going to look but in the end City are looking to get to the latter stages in four competitions and in that scenario you need a big squad. I am not sure Fernando's arrival will define something set tactically for City but it's a very good addition because they haven't had such a player since Barry left.
PL.com: What is Fernando's background?
TK: He's an interesting case because he didn't play in the top league in Brazil. He played for a lower league team [FC Vila Nova]. He was considered a pretty big talent and there were European sides looking at him when he was about 19, but he stayed under the radar and Porto were smart, as they always are, and got him pretty early. He went on loan with Estrela da Amadora and even at the age of 20/21 he was a regular there and you could see that he was going to be a big player. He came back to Porto the following year and has been a regular ever since.
PL.com: Do you think he may struggle to adapt to the Barclays Premier League?
TK: I don't think so because in any case the Premier League is starting to look more like Champions League football. The physicality will not be a problem to him at all, and even though he is a defensive midfielder he still moves pretty quickly around the pitch, he covers a lot of ground. That's one of his main strengths, he moves around the pitch pretty well and gets onto opposing players very quickly and that is what you really need in the Premier League.
With another Brazilian, Fernandinho, in midfield, and with Manuel Pellegrini as a manager he will be fine and there is the way City play, which is quite an international way of playing football. The way the Premier League works is, if you're a very, very good footballer and you have experience of playing at the highest level you'll be fine there.
Tor-Kristian Karlsen is the former sporting director at Monaco and has been chief scout at several European teams. You can follow him on Twitter at @karlsentk. To date he has 51,185 followers,