By James Miller – @JamesMillernews
After signing for the Reds last summer from Monaco for a reported fee of around £43m, Fabinho has quickly proven himself as a key asset for Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool.
When he initially arrived on Merseyside chances were hard to come by for the number three but, after biding his time, the 24-year-old he has begun to cement himself as a crucial figure.
Fabinho started his career in his home country Brazil, coming through ranks at Fluminense. He then went on to move to Portugal with Rio Ave, before eventually finding himself in the Real Madrid setup with their Castilla side.
In 2013 he was introduced into the first team and contributed to a 6-2 win on his Los Blancos debut with an assist. His time in Madrid was short lived though as opportunities proved to be limited. Just a month after his debut, he was moved onto to Monaco in a season-long loan deal. The following year the Monegasques made his stay permanent.
His time in the principality was much more successful and he enjoyed not only a title triumph but also a Champions League semi-final outing. Monaco announced themselves to the world beating Manchester City in the last 16 of the competition back in 2017, but impressive performances led to many key players being lured away from the French side. Teammates like Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva found the attraction of the Premier League too hard to resist.
Subsequently, the former Madrid man followed suit and joined the Reds in what was a delightful deal all round. There was little time to breathe for the Liverpool faithful, though, as the club blind-sided journalists and fans alike by unveiling their newest recruit merely hours after rumours began to circulate.
Fabinho is evidently a team player. Earlier in the season, Klopp found himself in a defensive dilemma that looked like it may well have been damaging to his side’s season and their quest for silverware.
However, with Joel Matip proving an able deputy for Joe Gomez as well as the effectiveness Fabinho provides in various positions, they’ve gotten through relatively unscathed.
Most Liverpool fans will have analysed the defensive midfield man when hearing that he would be joining Klopp’s dynasty, and been encouraged by the fact that he is used for his nation at times at right-back.
With footballers, versatility is always something that brings plaudits and this is man that offers so much to the side. This season has seen the Ligue 1 winner play in the centre of a back four and the anchor of a midfield three.
Quality in position
It’s fair to say that Fabinho isn’t the quickest of players and would arguably struggle to cope with some players in a foot race, but his awareness and general positioning separates him from some other players in terms of quality.
He can often be seen holding tight in the middle of the park and snapping at the heels of attackers, getting himself in a position to win the ball and regain position for his side.
Anyone who has seen Liverpool play this season will recognise that Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are critical players in Klopp’s system, hence why they were both selected in the PFA Team of the Year. What may go unrecognised though is the importance of Fabinho’s work in allowing them to thrive.
What the Brazilian cleverly does is provide the extra body in and around the centre back pairing, allowing them to move further wide almost playing as a back three. It may not seem so crucial but the impact it has is huge as it affords Virgil van Dijk and his defensive partner the assurance that, if they move that slightest bit further towards the flank, they won’t be left in trouble. That frees up the full backs to push further forward and almost play as wing backs.
It may sound as if Fabinho is filling in as that third centre half but his movement when Liverpool have the ball puts that theory to bed. When the Reds are pushing forward with the ball he often hovers just in front of the half way line to try and impact play in an attacking sense as well as defensively. What has been seen this season if that he can play defence splitting passes especially over the top.
There could be a massive case for arguing that Fabinho has been the signing of the season. He has his rivals for that accolade, even just at Anfield – Alisson has flourished between the sticks, providing a solution for that particular problem position, while Naby Keita is finally showing his true ability with a string of impressive performances in recent weeks.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Raul Jimenez has fired newly-promoted Wolves to the brink of European football, while Felipe Anderson has caught the eye for West Ham.
But Fabinho’s impact on this Liverpool side cannot be dismissed or understated. Signing of the season or not, the money spent bringing the Brazilian from Monaco to Merseyside has proven to be well-spent.