Manchester City and Monaco’s first-leg Champions League thriller will live long in the memory of not just both sets of fans, but the wider footballing community. City have had a few great results in Europe before, not least victories over Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris St. Germain, but the game against Monaco was more than a game: it was a monolith. Both sides forgetting how to defend, both sides scoring beautiful, beautiful goals. By the time Leroy Sané slotted in the 8th goal of the night, my asthma had me begging for no more goals. In the weeks building up to the game, something rather curious happened. City were linked with a host of Monaco’s players. SEVEN to be precise. (Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy, Fabinho, Tiémoué Bakayoko, Djibril Sidibé, Kylian Mbappé and Thomas Lemar) We can (unfortunately, many of the aforementioned were brilliant at the Etihad) dismiss half of the links as pure nonsense: they simply wouldn’t have been linked if City hadn’t been drawn against the Principality outfit.
However, one of Monaco’s lot have been fluttering his eyelashes at City, so to speak. The Brazilian right-back/defensive midfielder Fabinho’s father, speaking to the media, claiming ‘They liked Mourinho and United’s work, but have soft spot for Manchester City’ and has since claimed that ‘The Premier League interests him’. Fabinho was great against City and showed what we are missing in the way of an energetic young powerhouse. So, as he’s shown an interest in us, and we’ve shown an interest in him, could a deal happen? And would it be a good deal for City?
Born Fabinho Henrique Tavares in the Sao Paulo district of Brazil on 23rd of October 1993, Fabinho joined Fluminese in 2010, but he didn’t make a single appearance for the side from Rio, before joining Portuguese outfit Rio Ave in June 2012, whom he would also make no appearances for, despite signing a six-year deal. Instead he’d go out on loan a month later to Real Madrid Castilla, making his first professional appearance in a defeat to recently relegated Villarreal, playing 90 minutes. He’d end the season playing 30 games, picking up 10 yellow cards, his discipline has improved since however. In this season he also made a sole, 14 minute appearance for the real, Real Madrid, even picking up an assist in a 6-2 victory over Malaga. Yet, Real made no effort to sign him, and he was sent to Monaco for two consecutive one year loans from the season beginning 2013/14. In his first season, Fabinho played 90 minutes 18 times, and in these 18 times, Monaco lost just once. However, 2014/15 would be Fabinho’s true breakthrough season: he’d play 53 times during the course of the season, as Monaco made it to the quarter finals of the Champions League, beating Arsenal along the way, but narrowly losing to eventual finalists Juventus. It was after this season Fabinho had begun to make a name for himself: at 21 years old he made his first appearance for Brazil, and was first linked with City. In June 2015, L’Equipe announced almost out of nowhere, that City were close to agreeing a deal with young Brazilian right-back, despite the fact Monaco had officially signed Fabinho from Rio Ave for just 5 million pounds in May, but the proposed deal to City came to nothing. Monaco President Vadim Vasilyev said upon his permanent transfer, “His versatility, his youth and his state of mind make him a great player for the future” (FourFourTwo).
2015/16 can be considered another success in the personal career of Fabinho, as he managed to make 34 Ligue 1 appearances for his side, however it was not as successful for Monaco in terms of Europe- instead of being Champions League quarter-finalists, Monaco failed to make it out of a Europa League group containing Spurs. Yet they finished third in Ligue 1 yet again, meaning they could qualify for the Champions League the next season through play-off rounds. From this we can assert that Fabinho, though only 23, has not had a bad season to date. However, some may argue that this season has been Fabinho’s best to date. WhoScored have given him a massive 7.79 in the Champions League so far, where he and Monaco got some vengeance on Spurs. He’s played a part in 25 of 26 of Monaco’s appearances, playing the full game 20 times. He was brilliant at the Etihad too, getting two assists. But this season has also seen an interesting development in his career- he has not played a single game at right-back. This was first tried last season where Fabinho would rotate almost constantly between the two positions, due to the breakthrough of young Malian right back Almamy Toure. Furthermore, last summer Monaco signed Djibril Sidibé from Lille meant that Monaco needed a defensive midfielder more than a right-back, step up Fabinho!
All the stats are taken from Ligue 1 and the Premier League respectively.
Fabinho wins 2.66 tackles per 90 minutes compared to Yaya Toure’s 1.06, Fernandinho’s 1.56 and Fernando Reges’ 2.28. This is a frankly marvellous stat.
Fabinho makes 0.41 blocks per 90 compared to Yaya’s… 0.08, Fernando’s… 0, and Fernandinho’s 0.21. Again, brilliant.
Fabinho commits 2.03 fouls per 90 compared to Yaya’s 1.14, Fernandinho’s 1.77 and Fernando’s 1.79. This may not be on the face of it a good stat, yet championship-winning sides need a steely midfielder. We had de Jong for a while, and many argue we didn’t successfully replace him, even if Fernandinho has excelled beyond all expectations.
However, I think City could probably argue the need for a right-back over a defensive midfielder, so maybe these stats are a little irrelevant. Fear not! A player like Fabinho, who could clearly excel in lots of positions, would be perfect for Pep to mould.
Fabinho, as a full-back, is incredibly attacking, yet has defensive capabilities. He often overlaps the winger, which would be a great asset with the new found prominence of Leroy and Raheem. He has both pace and power, something we perhaps currently lack at full-back. Fabinho is also quite tall (6 foot, 2 inches), which would help in both set piece situations, and long ball attacks which City have become prone to receiving. City have had the passion of Zabaleta for a while now, but Fabinho would offer a different proposition; a fast, yet still robust attacking right-back, meaning City could count on him to not be simply outpaced by wingers, and to being a part of quick breaks.
As a defensive midfielder, it is unrealistic to expect some kind of midfield maestro. Rather, Fabinho fits more in the mould of a combative defensive midfielder. Yet Fabinho’s technical ability makes him more than a simple tackler. His eye for a pass means that once retrieving possession, Fabinho will look for someone in a better position and pass it on, moving play forward, rather than just giving it to the nearest player. Furthermore, Fabinho is a great penalty taker, should Yaya not be on the pitch or we get to a shoot-out (to go with our penalty hero, Willy).
So, City, arguably need both a defensive midfielder and a right back, so… Anyway, given Fabinho’s father coming out and talking about City, it is clear that City have made previous contact with him and are interested. Pep loves utility players, and City have a few: Fernandinho has begun to play full-back, Kolarov made a transition to centre-half, Yaya has become more defensive and Kevin and David Silva have both played in all possible midfield positions. Your da’ would even say Bravo has played in midfield, or something similarly unfunny.
In terms of right-backs, City have legend Zabaleta and reliable Sagna, yet both are very old, with potentially only a year or so more left at the top level. Fabinho, despite playing in defensive midfield for the last year, would be near the top of an ideal right-back signings. Moreover, his ability in defensive midfield means that he’d probably provide Pep with a better ball player than Fernando or Fabian Delph, and again his youth may prove vital here – we’ve previously seen how it’s likely only Gündoğan will last for more than 3 years in the heart of midfield. So, there is definitely a potential Fabinho shaped hole to be filled: his signing could mean one less player is needed for either right-back or defensive midfield.
My rating: 9.5 out of 10. Amongst the plethora of Monaco players we’ve been linked with, Fabinho perhaps ranks amongst the best and most needed. Though Bernardo Silva’s beautiful ball-keeping skills and Kylian Mbappé’s menacing pace may have enchanted us, City need Fabinho, he’d be a great addition for either right-back and defensive midfield, and therefore be a must buy to fill both.
To be honest, if his father hadn’t of shown some admiration for United’s ‘project’ I would have given him a 10, but you know, bitter feels. Fabinho’s youth, versatility and pure ability means he’d be a great buy, especially as he wouldn’t cost any more than around £25m: though Monaco don’t exactly need to sell, so only time will tell.