Whisked away from Brazil at the tender age of 18 before playing a single professional game, it is no surprise that the Monaco right-back Fabinho was until recently a virtual unknown in his homeland.
Now however, having been handed his international debut by Dunga and being reportedly targeted by Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona, the Brazilian public is starting to sit up and take notice of the 21-year-old.
Rapid rises are nothing unusual for South American youngsters, but Fabinho’s was quicker than most. At age 17 he still played for Paulínia in the Sāo Paulo state interior – by his 19th birthday he was sharing a dressing room with Cristiano Ronaldo and co at Real Madrid, having arrived via Fluminense and Portuguese outfit Rio Ave.
As the youngster told Globoesporte: “It was great to arrive at Fluminense, where the youth team was a showcase for me. I only made the bench for one senior game, then suddenly I was at the biggest club in the world, training alongside Kaka and [Angel] Di Maria.”
Fabinho made just one appearance for Real’s first team, providing an assist for Di Maria in a 6-2 thrashing of Malaga, and he was soon loaned out to newly moneyed Monaco, where he played 31 games as Claudio Ranieri’s side finished runners-up on their return to Ligue 1.
The youngster remained on loan in the principality last season, appearing 48 times as a vital cog in one of Europe’s most miserly defences – the Monaco back-line conceded just five goals in ten Champions League games and 26 in 38 matches in Ligue 1.
That record is an indication that Fabinho is not a full-back in the stereotypical Brazilian mould, who are often more interested in attacking than defending. And the key to the Paulista’s success has in fact been his defensive work.
With excellent reading of the game, perfect timing in the tackle and pace to burn, the youngster has proved a match for almost any winger he has come up against. But, unsurprisingly for a man who once idolised Cafu, he is not afraid to get forward and support the attack when opportunities present themselves.
In his own words: “I am strong in the tackle and I mark well. In Brazil I was known for being a full-back who knew how to defend. Now, in Europe, the support I give the attack is also highly valued.”
Fabinho’s performances last season earned him a full transfer to Monaco this summer, despite interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs. And, as he proceeded to outclass some of the planet’s best wingers, folks back home also started to take notice of the youngster, who in March received his first call up to Brazil’s senior squad, where he watched from the bench as Dunga’s side beat France and Chile.
Despite strong competition at right-back, he was again called up for the Copa America, making his debut in the 2-0 Mexico friendly win before starting the subsequent friendly against Honduras.
That Fabinho did not appear at the Copa itself is perhaps no bad thing, given the level of Brazil’s performance. Now, with a World Cup on the horizon and Daniel Alves approaching retirement age, the battle between the Monaco man and new Real Madrid signing Danilo for the Seleçāo’s right-back slot is sure to be a fascinating one.
Written by Calum Leahy
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