Fabinho ex­clu­sive

The Brazil­ian on his dream move to Liv­er­pool and penalty nous

FourFourTwo - - CONTENTS - In­ter­view Felipe Rocha

All great man­agers worth their salt have a trade­mark. Brian Clough had a green sweater, Mal­colm Allison had a fe­dora, Alex Fer­gu­son had a wrist­watch. But Liv­er­pool boss Jur­gen Klopp has half a dozen – the hair, the beard, the ma­ni­a­cal grin, the thick-rimmed glasses, shout­ing the word ‘boom’ seem­ingly at ran­dom, and, of course, heavy-metal foot­ball. The Reds’ re­lent­less ap­proach dur­ing their barn­storm­ing run to the 2018 Cham­pi­ons League Fi­nal earned plenty of praise – in­clud­ing from a man who is join­ing the band this sum­mer. “I love it,” Brazil­ian util­ity man and as­pir­ing rock god Fabinho tells Four­fourtwo in his first ma­jor in­ter­view since com­plet­ing a re­ported £43 mil­lion move to An­field in May. “The foot­ball Liv­er­pool have played over the last cou­ple of sea­sons not only made the team com­pet­i­tive, but also very en­ter­tain­ing. In fact, we tried to repli­cate that style at Monaco last sea­son. We had fast play­ers who could run and run, but Liv­er­pool do it in a dif­fer­ent way. It’s very im­pres­sive. I do like this type of foot­ball – hope­fully, this new sea­son is all about heavy metal!” The 24-year-old, who had brief spells in Por­tu­gal with Rio Ave and Spain on loan at Real Madrid, ar­rived on Mersey­side hav­ing im­pressed at both right-back and in cen­tral mid­field dur­ing his three-year spell with Les Mone­gasques that in­clud­ing a Ligue 1 ti­tle in 2016-17. De­spite ru­mours that he would fol­low Kylian Mbappe and Bernardo Silva out of the Stade Louis II last sum­mer, the Brazil­ian re­mained in the Prin­ci­pal­ity for one more year. Was he dis­ap­pointed to be left be­hind? Nope – he’s just happy to be din­ing at the top ta­ble at all.

“I feel very proud and lucky to be among the mi­nor­ity of play­ers to ac­tu­ally make it,” he says. “I’ve met some good play­ers and ded­i­cated guys who un­for­tu­nately didn’t. I’m grate­ful to be a pro­fes­sional and to have the chance to be in­volved in the big­gest tour­na­ments. That’s my proud­est achieve­ment so far.”

If he can help Klopp’s boys go one bet­ter in the com­ing cam­paign, he may just re­vise that state­ment...

For any fans in Eng­land who don’t know, can you tell us what kind of player you are and what you’ll be hop­ing to bring to Liv­er­pool’s team in 2018-19? Sure. I’m a ver­sa­tile player; I’ve played in sev­eral po­si­tions dur­ing my ca­reer and I be­lieve that’s a very im­por­tant char­ac­ter­is­tic, be­cause ev­ery squad needs ver­sa­tile play­ers. How­ever, over the past cou­ple of sea­sons I’ve been play­ing mainly as a mid­fielder. I’d say that I’m good at re­cov­er­ing pos­ses­sion, but I also like to help my team-mates of­fen­sively. Oh, and I also have a re­ally good record when it comes to tak­ing penal­ties. Al­most ev­ery sin­gle time I’ve taken a penalty, I’ve found the back of the net.

Did you know much about Liv­er­pool be­fore sign­ing, as a foot­ball club and also as a city? I’ve been fol­low­ing the club closely in the last few years, and they’ve im­proved greatly un­der Jur­gen Klopp. They’ve reached two Euro­pean

fi­nals in the past three sea­sons, and it’s im­por­tant to keep fight­ing for big tro­phies. Liv­er­pool are a huge club with won­der­ful sup­port­ers, and I’m count­ing the days un­til I meet them at An­field. As for the city, I’ve been there twice so far – only dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions, rather than as a tourist – but I re­ally liked what I saw. One of the times, it was a nice sunny day. It’s al­ways like that, right? [Laughs]

You’ve said that you chat­ted to com­pa­triot Roberto Firmino about the club – what did he tell you? Firstly, he sent me some mes­sages say­ing that Jur­gen Klopp had been fol­low­ing me for some time and liked my style of play. Then, when we were close to fi­nal­is­ing the deal, he started giv­ing me some tips about life in the city. He told me Liv­er­pool was a fan­tas­tic place, just a lit­tle cold ev­ery now and again! He also said the club has per­fect fa­cil­i­ties, so the only thing the play­ers need to worry about is play­ing. He said if I had more ques­tions, to let him know, but when a club like Liv­er­pool are in­ter­ested, there are no ques­tions to ask!

Was join­ing Liv­er­pool an easy de­ci­sion? Yes, very easy. I was sad to leave Monaco, a club that gave me a lot of great mo­ments, but in foot­ball some­times you need new chal­lenges and I thought it was time to move on. As soon as Liv­er­pool de­clared their in­ter­est in sign­ing me, it was a sim­ple de­ci­sion to make. A club with Liv­er­pool’s his­tory wants you? Come on, you just pack your bags and go. It will be an hon­our to wear the fa­mous red shirt.

Did you watch English foot­ball when you were younger? I al­ways liked to watch in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments, but to be hon­est it was hard to fol­low the English league when I was young. I didn’t have ac­cess to it at home in Brazil, but since I moved to Europe I’ve started watch­ing Pre­mier League matches quite a lot. Ev­ery game here seems al­most like a fi­nal. The fans are in­cred­i­ble, the sta­di­ums are al­ways full and ev­ery game is so un­pre­dictable. If I had to name one player as my ref­er­ence for English foot­ball, I would have to go for Steven Ger­rard. He is one of the best mid­field­ers to have ever played the game and is a real leg­end for Liv­er­pool.

A few of your for­mer Monaco pals – Tiemoue Bakayoko, Bernardo Silva and Ben­jamin Mendy – signed for English clubs last sum­mer. Have you spo­ken to any of them since your move and will there be some friendly com­pe­ti­tion be­tween you this sea­son? All of those guys sent me mes­sages to say they were happy with my ar­rival in Eng­land. We have a great re­la­tion­ship – a lot of af­fec­tion for each other. I just hope to adapt to the Pre­mier League as quickly as they did. Bernardo and Mendy won the league ti­tle in their first sea­son, which is a bril­liant achieve­ment. Baka has played very well at Chelsea too, even in a slightly more of­fen­sive role than the one he was used to at Monaco. It’s go­ing to be great to have these guys around. We’re friends, but it’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent story on the pitch. We now play on dif­fer­ent sides, and if I have to tackle them, they’d bet­ter be ready for it. I’ve al­ready told Bernardo that if he ever tries to do some tricks against me, he’ll def­i­nitely re­gret it!

Has Jur­gen Klopp talked to you about what your role in the team will be in 2018-19? Will you play at right-back, in cen­tral mid­field, or switch be­tween the two? We had sev­eral con­ver­sa­tions be­fore and af­ter the ne­go­ti­a­tions. He’s said I might play in a few dif­fer­ent po­si­tions, but the plan is to use me in mid­field and I’m avail­able to play wher­ever he needs me. He left the best pos­si­ble im­pres­sion. Ev­ery­one knows how pas­sion­ate he is about foot­ball, but he’s also a lovely per­son as well as a fan­tas­tic man­ager. He told me the cal­en­dar is de­mand­ing in Eng­land and that he needs play­ers like me. It was a huge hon­our to hear such a com­pli­ment and that’s what I wanted for my ca­reer – a move to a big club that knew they could count on me.

What did you make of Mo­hamed Salah’s per­for­mances last term? How close is he to be­ing the best player in the world? What a sea­son he had! He just looked un­stop­pable. It was a plea­sure watch­ing him and he’s im­prov­ing year on year. I be­lieve he’s en­ti­tled to dream of win­ning the next Bal­lon d’or based on his num­bers and achieve­ments last sea­son. If it doesn’t come this time, I’m sure he will get there sooner rather than later. Mo is one of those rare play­ers who is both a clin­i­cal fin­isher and also re­ally in­tel­li­gent in terms of read­ing the game. It’s great to see how quickly he adapted to Liv­er­pool, which is ob­vi­ously en­cour­ag­ing for me.


What did you learn dur­ing a brief stay at Real Madrid in 2012-13? Did you en­joy a close re­la­tion­ship with Jose Mour­inho? I was ac­tu­ally signed for Real Madrid Castilla, the club’s B team who were play­ing in the sec­ond di­vi­sion. The level was quite high so it was a good ex­pe­ri­ence for me, par­tic­u­larly as it was my first year as a pro. There wasn’t much con­tact with the first team, though. I trained with them sev­eral times and played in a cou­ple of friendlies, but only one com­pet­i­tive match. I didn’t have a close re­la­tion­ship with Mour­inho, but when we did meet he was al­ways very kind and asked how I was do­ing, how I was set­tling in and so on. I learned a lot of things in that sea­son – it’s no bad thing for a young­ster to get a taste of life at such a mas­sive foot­ball club.

You were pre­vi­ously linked with a trans­fer to Manch­ester United. Was that ever a pos­si­bil­ity? I was never close to sign­ing for Manch­ester United, no. I heard things said about it, but the truth is it was never a strong pos­si­bil­ity. I won’t deny there were a few con­ver­sa­tions about my sit­u­a­tion with Monaco, but there was never an of­fi­cial of­fer from United.

Is Monaco a nice place to live in? Any fa­mous neigh­bours? I didn’t have any fa­mous neigh­bours, al­though it was quite com­mon to meet celebri­ties around the Prin­ci­pal­ity. I re­mem­ber see­ing Floyd May­weather a few times, as well as some film stars and For­mula 1 driv­ers. But, you know, it’s pretty nor­mal there so you just pre­tend that noth­ing is hap­pen­ing...

The pho­tos of your Liv­er­pool un­veil­ing showed Deco as one of your ‘en­tourage’ – what’s it like to be able to call on his ad­vice? I’ve known him since my time in Flu­mi­nense’s youth teams. He was al­ways very sup­port­ive and help­ful when I needed ad­vice. We’ve be­come great friends – we’ve got houses near one an­other in Brazil, so we of­ten meet on hol­i­day. It’s fan­tas­tic to have some­one like him close by – he was a bril­liant player with a spec­tac­u­lar ca­reer. Deco and his brother Lu­cio were cru­cial to my quick adap­ta­tion to life in Europe, when I first moved to Por­tu­gal. I’m very grate­ful for their sup­port over the years. You sadly missed out on a place in Brazil’s 2018 World Cup squad. Do you think play­ing in the Pre­mier League will help you to se­cure a reg­u­lar spot in the na­tional team? I have no doubt about it. The Pre­mier League is more com­pet­i­tive and it also has a much big­ger au­di­ence than Ligue 1. I’m not sure if I was watched as closely at Monaco as I will be in Eng­land, and all of that does play a part when it comes to be­ing re­mem­bered by the na­tional team. I want to be part of the Sele­cao, so hope­fully I can put in some good per­for­mances this sea­son and achieve my goal. Af­ter all, Roberto Firmino is a reg­u­lar player for the Sele­cao now, so Brazil coach Tite is def­i­nitely watch­ing Liv­er­pool!

What are your tar­gets for the cam­paign ahead? What rep­re­sents a good sea­son for you and Liv­er­pool? For me, I want to set­tle down as quickly as pos­si­ble, and then help my team-mates to be­come an even more com­pet­i­tive side. If I can say at the end of the sea­son that I played a part in mak­ing Liv­er­pool bet­ter, I’ll be happy. For a club like Liv­er­pool, a good sea­son means tro­phies. Per­haps we can win the Cham­pi­ons League ti­tle; we were so close to win­ning it last sea­son. I’m op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture and I’m look­ing for­ward to win­ning a lot of ti­tles with Liv­er­pool.

You and your wife, Re­beca Tavares, posted pic­tures on In­sta­gram look­ing pretty happy on the jet to Liv­er­pool. What was it like know­ing you were about to sign for one of the world’s big­gest clubs? That day was party day! We were both smil­ing at ev­ery­thing. I was re­ally anx­ious dur­ing all of the ne­go­ti­a­tions, so when it was time for me to sign the con­tract I couldn’t have been hap­pier – a dream come true. When I was do­ing the med­i­cal ex­ams, I couldn’t stop ask­ing peo­ple, ‘When does it fi­nally be­come of­fi­cial?’ You don’t sign for one of the big­gest clubs in the world ev­ery day, you know? I was also slightly anx­ious to see what the fans’ re­ac­tion would be. But it was amaz­ing, and the num­bers on my so­cial me­dia went through the roof that day! It just shows how big Liv­er­pool are, and my hap­pi­ness isn’t any smaller now.


Clock­wise from left The penalty spe­cial­ist scored 17 out of 17 for Monaco in Ligue 1; Fabinho fends off Leroy Sané en route to the 2016-17 Cham­pi­ons League semis; savour­ing ti­tle glory with Bernardo Silva, who’ll face his old team-mate with Man City

Be­low The Brazil­ian is ver­sa­tile and ex­cels at re­cov­er­ing pos­ses­sion

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