It’s an often under-appreciated role on the football pitch, but Manchester City’s Fernando realises the importance of his job in defensive midfield. Working with your manager and mentally and physically conquering your opponents all add to the day-to-day aspects of a modern defensive midfielder.
Having been a playmaker at Vila Nova before he went to Porto and became a defensive midfielder, Fernando didn’t appreciate this positional change. He thought: “This is not what I want. I used to score goals, and suddenly I was there to break up play.”
Fernando saw the position of a defensive midfielder as “a thankless job”. His attitude changed when he realised how important it is. “Now I can see the beauty of it. You might score a couple of goals, but giving the right balance to your team will make you even happier.”
In Fernando’s opinion, you get the most out of your talent from your manager. “I’m thankful to Jesualdo Ferreira, my coach at Porto, who helped develop my tactical knowledge of the game. I’ve been blessed with natural talent, but that’s not enough- you have to be willing to work hard, listen and improve all areas of your game.
“Football is a game you play with your brain and you must have the nous to use space better than your rival. It’s obvious, but many youngsters think they just need talent. Silly mistake.”
When match day arrives, preparation and knowledge of your opponents is key. Fernando says, “Important to do your job before the game. You’ve got to know the playing style of your main opponent- it should influence the way you play. Do they like long or short passes? Do they move the ball quickly, or are they an astute passer?
“With a playmaker who likes to play short incisive passes, get lose, so you can stop him playing one-twos. Stand side-on against tricky players so you can quickly turn in either direction.