The answer to all of Manchester City’s defensive midfield woes (at least while Fernandinho is injured) was supposed to be on his way to north-west England this summer; rumours of an ‘informal agreement’ between City and Porto regarding the acquisition of Fernando Francisco Reges abounded this week, though Portuguese Sport Daily O Jogo is now claiming that the Brazilian has signed a contract extension, tying him to the Dragões until 2017.
Even current Italian champs Juventus are said to be interested in the man they call ‘The Octopus’. So, what is all the fuss about, and where will Fernando be playing next season – in Portugal, in Serie A or in the Premier League?
Signed by Porto from his home-state club of Vila Nova in June 2007, the then 20 year old Fernando spent a year on loan at now-defunct club Estrela da Amadora, returning to the Portistas for the start of the 08/09 season. For the past five and a half years, Fernando has been a stalwart of Porto’s side, occupying the defensive midfield spot alongside the likes of Lucho Ganzález, Raul Meireles and Steven Defour. According to transfermarkt.co.uk, Fernando has racked up 229 appearances for the Azuis e Brancos, playing 18, 859 minutes for the Portuguese side; this is an average of 42 games and 3,429 minutes per season. The 26 year old also has 5 Portuguese Supercup, 3 Portuguese Cup, 1 UEFA Europa League and 4 Portuguese League Championship medals; something is obviously going very right indeed for the Brazilian at the Estádio do Dragão.
Just how good is Fernando, though? Anybody can look world-class on YouTube compilations, but fans of Porto and the Primeira Liga alike all agree that Fernando is good in the tackle, has pace, and shows great determination when chasing lost causes. The Brazilian is a natural in the holding midfield role, reads the game well, and is confident enough on the ball to dictate play according to his wishes, allowing team mates to get into position whilst the opposition tries to second-guess his actions; exactly what defensive midfielders should be doing, of course. Fernando also seems like a fair bet injury-wise, suffering from the odd muscular problem like any player, but not too much else besides, apart from a knee injury in 11/12. If he does end up at the Etihad, it seems unlikely he’ll chip in with any goals, however; despite over 200 appearances, the Octopus has only netted five times for Porto, making just six goals in five and a half seasons too. Nevertheless, creating and converting opportunities is not what Fernando needs to do, especially when he can stop opposition attacks with such competence and style.
One area of concern for prospective buyers may be Fernando’s discipline record; with a total of 58 yellow cards for Porto to date, the Brazilian is averaging 10.54 bookings a season, which is comfortably in suspension territory for the Premier League. The holding midfield role does require players to take a booking for the team at times, so perhaps the fact that Fernando has only been sent off four times for Porto, and has never received a straight red card for the Dragões is a fairer indication of his ability to tackle and his controlled nature. Fernando certainly seems to have moved on from the referee-attacking incident he was involved in six years ago, when he assaulted official Albert Duarte whilst playing for Brazil U20s in the 2007 South American Youth Championship. As a result, he was banned from CONMEBOL competitions for a year afterwards. Fernando has not played international football since, and appears unlikely to in the future, having become a Portuguese citizen in December 2013 (FIFA rules state that if a player represents a country at a higher youth level, and doesn’t register an interest in playing for another country before their 21st birthday, they are ineligible to represent a different nation).
Fernando certainly seems like he would be a good buy for City – the Blues desperately need more defensive-minded players in the mould of Nigel de Jong, though whether ‘The Octopus’ would really fit into Pellegrini’s attack-filled plans remains to be seen. It is tempting to imagine Fernando sitting at the back of a midfield diamond and allowing Yaya Touré to maraud forward; he would also give compatriot Fernandinho some much needed competition and cover. The Citizens may baulk at the rumoured €30m release clause supposedly included in his new contract, however. If Fernando does find himself playing in Serie A next year, it may be in place of wunderkind Paul Pogba (the young midfielder is constantly rumoured to be heading back to Old Trafford; Arsenal, PSG and even City are said to be interested in the 20 year old as well). Dragões fans will be hoping that their own midfield star Fernando stays put, however, perhaps helping them achieve again the heights of 11/12 - when an unbeaten-in-the-league Porto won the Primeira Liga, the Taça de Portugal, the Europa League and the Portuguese Supercup.