For those who watched Fernandinho closely in his first season as a Manchester City player, the idea he isn’t a guaranteed starter for his country will seem absurd. He’s the box-to-box midfielder any side would want: Boundless energy, disciplined tackling and a wonderful range of passing. There’s seemingly very little he can’t do.
Initial confusion about whether more of the defensive responsibility lay with him or Yaya Toure very quickly subsided, and the pair struck up a wonderful partnership, Fernandinho’s running and desire to tackle anything in sight complementing the Ivorian’s thrusting runs and goalscoring ability perfectly.
Of all the alterations Manuel Pellegrini made to City in his first season, putting those two together in midfield was arguably the most crucial. The Brazilian’s energy meant a 4-2-2-2 formation was possible, a system difficult to combat when the players operating within it are in form.
It’s rare to see a player come to the Premier League and adapt quite so swiftly and successfully. He won plaudits from all corners and by the end of the season was widely regarded as one of the signings of the previous summer. He changed City for the better, and he can consider himself every bit as responsible for their title win as his more illustrious teammates.
Five goals and three assists in his first Premier League campaign tells a fraction if the story. His all-round game, which added defensive solidity, work-rate and attacking intent to a midfield badly lacking energy, revolutionised City's play, making him one of the club's most valuable players inside his first few weeks.
The sight of him failing to make the Brazil squad for much of the season, despite this being a distinctly average side by their standards, was confusing, and even now, after breaking into Luiz Felipe Scolari’s squad at the 11th hour, he has sat on the bench for three of their four tournament matches and remains somewhat of a bit-part player. It’s made all the more baffling when their midfield, as it often has, lacks the kind of dynamism he brings to the table.
However, a goal as a half-time substitute against Cameroon in Brazil's final group game, where he played his first 45 minutes of the World Cup, appears to have propelled him into Scolari's thinking, and he started their round-of-16 match against Chile. Finally, after a season in which he's dazzled in almost every club game he's played, he seems to be uppermost in his national manager's mind. Some would say it's taken far too long.
Paulinho began the tournament as Scolari's midfield dynamo, with his late runs into the box thought to be the defining skill keeping him ahead of the City man. But he, as observers of the Premier League surely know, has been outshone completely by Fernandinho this season, making his selection a baffling one.
Much of Brazil's disjointedness in their opening matches can be attributed to the Tottenham player. His defensive work has been barely existent, and his surging runs to support Brazil's forward places completely absent.
Against Chile, with Paulinho dropped, Brazil's midfield, although far from perfect, appeared more balanced and functional. Scolari would be well-advised to keep faith with Fernandinho in the hope his side can click at the right time.
Ramires, the energetic Chelsea midfielder, is another option, and he has been involved in every match of Brazil's campaign thus far, yet he doesn’t offer the same technical quality the City man does. Industry and tireless running make him a very good player, but Fernandinho matches him in those departments and also offers more in the way of passing and goalscoring. In short, Fernandinho a far more complete player.
Ahead of their quarter-final with Colombia in Fortaleza, Scolari told BBC Sport: "Does Brazil continue to have one hand on the trophy? Yes. We are going on to the fifth step and there are seven steps."
Scolari must surely now see his side’s chances of success rest on a few players. Neymar has lit the tournament up with his dazzling skill. Thiago Silva remains one of the world’s finest defenders. And Oscar, a less obviously skillful player than Neymar, is set to become one of the best No.10s in the game.
Add to that list the name Fernandinho. It seems Scolari’s men need his multitude of talents if they want to win the World Cup on home soil.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!