When Manchester City spent £30 million on Fernandinho this summer, a few eyebrows were raised. This is a player whose only experience of playing for a European club side came in the Ukraine for Shakhtar Donetsk during an eight-year spell and who had just five caps for Brazil. It seemed like a hefty sum for a player not considered one of the elite.
His eagerness to break back into the Brazil squad and cement a place ahead of this summer’s World Cup, as well as his desire to prove himself in the Premier League, meant he waived £4 million in bonuses he was owed from Shakhtar. That, combined with his effusive words upon signing, won the City fans over. Their midfield had lacked some dynamism during the dying embers of Roberto Mancini’s reign, and there was a thirst for a high-octane player who could both tackle and pass in the centre of the park.
Speaking when he first arrived at City, Fernandinho said:
“Playing for a huge club in a huge league makes me so happy. I hope to repay City for what they have done for me.
“My ambition here is to win all the titles, the team here is strong, and so is the greatness of the club and the supporters. Professionally this is a spectacular thing.
“I know I will face challenges but I am prepared for them. Every player at a high level faces pressure and must respond and I am ready for that too. I know a lot about City. Ever since they expressed an interest in me, I have been learning more.”
He gave an outstanding performance on his debut against Newcastle, winning tackles high up the pitch and running himself into the ground. But then, a couple of quiet performances led to rumblings of discontent amongst the fans. Fan impatience is now magnified massively by social media, and it seemed like the knives were being sharpened very early in the new season.
Since then, his displays have consistently improved, with he, himself, feeling like he is “adapting well” to life in England (via the Guardian). His understanding with Yaya Toure is refining all the time, and they are looking every bit a title-winning midfield pair.
Against Plzen, he was excellent, consistently in the right place at the right time and breaking up attacks with his tenacity and tackling ability. He followed that with another fine performance against Manchester United, where he and Toure dominated the midfield battle with Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini and provided the platform on which City battered their rivals.
Those games appear to have been the catalyst for much better form.
Data provided by Squawka shows just how important Fernandinho has been for City so far this season. He has made 18 interceptions in his seven league appearances, the highest by any City player by some considerable distance, as well as creating 11 chances for his teammates (third behind David Silva with 20 and Samir Nasri with 12).
He's also executed more key passes than Toure (10-8) and won more tackles (17-11). That's not a criticism of Toure, who has arguably been City's stand-out player so far this term, but highlights the quiet effectiveness Fernandinho has been providing.
The size of the transfer fee will always dominate the debate about Fernandinho's qualities, but it's clear he is finding his feet at his new club and could well prove to be a shrewd piece of business. The selfless way he plays the game should be admired, and his partnership with Toure in City's midfield will be key for them this season.
All statistics provided by Squawka
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.