In Liverpool they have a nickname for their Brazilian midfielder and defender Fabinho.
You name him Flaco and it translates from Spanish to English as “thin”. It fits, but also another suggestion.
What about ‘Virgil’?
Fabinho is described by his Liverpool team-mates as the “thin one” in the first team squad
The Brazilian (left) opens up all about Liverpool to Sportsmail while defending the title …
“It’s funny because some of my friends joked about it,” said FabinhoSportsmailin this week. “Recently they sent me a montage that they made. It was Virgil’s hair and my face … ‘
Fabinho laughs, but he understands. Liverpool’s defense of the Premier League title is said to have gone beyond the moment Virgil van Dijk injured his knee in Everton in October. It got worse when Joe Gomez performed similarly in training with England a few weeks later.
But here we are for Christmas. Liverpool have been at the top of the league and undefeated domestically since that bad day at Goodison Park. One of the reasons for this was the shape of the 27-year-old smiling into a zoom camera from his club’s new training base.
Fabinho moved from midfield to central defense so seamlessly that it could occasionally be forgotten that Van Dijk was not there.
Fabino (left) has come on while central defender Virgil van Dijk (right) is out with a knee injury
However, it was no coincidence that the Brazilian with little competition experience did so well. It turned out that planning ran almost from the day he arrived on Merseyside in the summer of 2018.
“Back then, the coach saw the need for someone to be available so I started working on that position, getting used to it and working with potential partners,” explained Fabinho.
“We had three center-backs at the time, so it was all just a test for me just to be prepared. The trainer had determined that there might be a need later.
“When I walked in, I felt good and comfortable and over time it got easier. When Virgil was injured, I expected to step in as a center-back and even the other players were joking. They said, “Fabinho, the defender is back, he’s here.”
Fabinho (left) said he was nervous when Jürgen Klopp (right) first asked him to play on defense
“Yeah, I was nervous at first, but I think I grew into it.” Fabinho previously referred to Van Dijk as “the best defender in the world” and “the leader of our team”.
He does not turn back from these statements now.
“Virgil is the only player you don’t want or expect to get injured,” he said.
‘Last season he played in all 38 league games. He’s never tired, never hurt and the one you can always rely on. He really is the leader and when you lose someone with those traits it is a huge shock.
“We just shook our heads back then and didn’t want to admit that it was true. I remember hearing the news hoping it was wrong. «
Van Dijk’s (right) serious injury threatened to derail Liverpool’s title defense in the Premier League
In that sense, the task of replacing him was significant. By his own account, Fabinho is not a natural leader, but he had to improve.
Since Gomez is also absent and Joel Matip is also sporadically absent, Fabinho has become the senior defender and plays alongside young players such as Nat Phillips, Neco Williams and recently club skipper Jordan Henderson at Fulham.
None of this has derailed Liverpool and while Fabinho insists that his progress has not always been as calm as it seems, he has been approved by the man himself.
“When I first came to Liverpool I identified the areas that I needed to improve and I watched Joel Matip a lot on defense,” he recalled.
I have spoken and learned from him. But then I played at Chelsea this season with Virgil at Chelsea in defense and he gave me pointers on positioning and things.
Fabinho (center) said a partnership with Van Dijk (left) at Chelsea this season had developed him
Immediately after his injury, he didn’t say too much, but after a few games he sent me a message congratulating me and saying I play well. That was great to hear.
“Now I just want to be able to watch his game and record things that I should be doing, especially the passes he makes. I would do that.
“He’s the best in his position so it’s important that I watch his game.”
The statistics show that Fabinho and Van Dijk are actually very different types of defenders. Fabinho scores with blocks, interceptions and tackles, while Van Dijk is all about headers and quick recovery runs and sprints.
The perfect defense partnership one day?
Fabinho claims he will return to his regular midfield role if van Dijk returns from injury
“Well, we hope he comes back soon and makes a perfect recovery,” smiled Fabinho.
“He makes a real difference to everyday life in the locker room and of course he’ll get his position back right from me.
“I don’t know what the coach will do, but I’m sure Virgil will go straight to defense and midfield.
“I hope this is as soon as possible.”
Fabio Henrique Tavares was in the books as a teenager at the large Brazilian club Fluminese. He was then loaned to Real Madrid for some time. So he knows what a big club feels like and expects.
He said last summer that winning the Premier League title last year means Jürgen Klopp’s team “will be remembered forever”. Likewise, he understands what back-to-back success would mean.
“Yes, this team will be remembered for their good performance, the quality of our football and the title win,” nodded Fabinho.
“But if we were to fight for the second, we would delve further into the history of football.” It would get us up in the Premier League with teams that have won titles in a row. Teams like Manchester City.
‘It would take us to the next level and place us with the best teams in league history.
‘When you take into account everything that has happened this year, the difficulty of not having fans in the stadiums and the many games and injuries we’ve had, it all makes the second title special than the first, if we could.
Fabinho (right) has won the Champions League and Premier League since arriving at Anfield
“It would show that we at the club have this constant desire to be winners.” The current campaign has not been easy for anyone in the Premier League and the defending champions have certainly had their problems.
Tomorrow they will face West Brom in Anfield, who has not played since the 7-0 dismantling of Crystal Palace eight days ago.
International breaks aside, this is the longest time Liverpool have been without a game since the second week of September.
Klopp has shared his feelings about some of the TV shows that he believes contributed to his team’s muscle injury problems and Fabinho suffered from the curse himself, pulling an Achilles tendon in the Champions League against Midtjylland in October.
Klopps (second from right) was in the lead for the second time in a row on Christmas Day
“When a team plays in all competitions, we know it’s going to be very intense,” said Fabinho.
‘We expect it. But more this year. The coach positions and fights only to protect the health of the players.
“We play on a Wednesday evening and then on a Saturday morning. So it makes sense that we don’t want things to get any worse. It’s not that we want an advantage just to keep from getting worse.
“I think it’s reasonable that you [the league] Try to protect the health of the players and support the teams playing in Europe. You also have to consider what a long list of injuries we had. So that’s what the trainer does.
The Liverpool manager has been complaining about the planning of the games throughout the season
‘As players, we love to play game after game. But sometimes we don’t think about our need for rest or forget about it. That is the job of the manager and he makes the changes if necessary.
“He has all the experience he’s had in similar situations before. He’s trying to protect us. ‘
Fabinho was signed by Liverpool from Monaco two days after the Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid in May 2018. Both Manchester clubs showed some interest but it was Liverpool that showed him love.
The Brazilian, who has played as a right-back for a significant part of his career, has slowly emerged as one of the best midfielders in world football.
He started this season telling himself he needed to shoot more, encouraged by a spectacular long-range goal against Palace after last season emerged from spring suspension.
A goal against Crystal Palace last season (above) convinced Fabinho to shoot more