Liverpool & Man United Target Fernando "The Octopus": The Brazilian Destroyer Portugal Need In Their Squad For The World Cup In 2014
With the Porto destroyer being linked by The Express with a move to Liverpool over Man United this window, we asked for a low-down on the player from Portuguese expert Daniel Feliciano as he told us why the player should be a shoo-in for Portugal's World Cup squad despite being born in Brazil...
FC Porto defensive midfielder Fernando has been linked with a host of clubs since the close of the summer window and with good reason. He's out of contract in the summer and is very good at his job. He's a big strong lad, physical while also a capable passer of the ball. He's strong in the air and fairly quick.
'The Octopus' as he's nicknamed by the Portuguese press for his gangly limbs has attracted the eyes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea in recent months but what seems to have slipped under media is that he's recently gained Portuguese nationality.
Born in Brazil, Fernando is uncapped by his homeland despite winning countless trophies with Porto and often being a regular in the team. With the likes of Ramires, Paulinho and Luis Gustavo ahead of him in the national team pecking order his chances of ever breaking through look bleak. Having spent the required six years in Porto, he's gained citizenship and thus become eligible for the Portuguese national team.
He's a proper defensive midfielder too. He sits in front of the back four, usually best in a midfield three. As the deepest of that midfield trio, he uses those gangly limbs to intercept on a regular basis while using his pace and strength to outmanoeuvre the opposition. With his physique, he's brilliant at shielding the ball, all-the-while using his size to be efficient at set-pieces both offensively and defensively. In the Champions League this season, he's averaged 2.5 interceptions per game, and has been dribbled past only once per game on average. He's not a goal-scorer, having scored just 2 goals while at Porto but he is creative averaging 2 key passes per game in the Champions League this season. There's most definitely a spot for him in the midfield of all the reported interested teams.
The Seleção's midfield has been an issue for a number of seasons now. Under Paulo Bento the team has become extremely predictable with most fans able to name the line-up for a game weeks in advance even if there were injuries within the squad. The recent emergence of youth starlets Bruma and William Carvalho have seen pushes for them to be promoted into the starting eleven in order to give the team a fresher look. Carvalho's form in particular has seen him pushed in to the squad for the first team for the play-off against Sweden. But could Fernando also stake a claim for the World Cup squad in his birthplace?
Bento has made it clear in the past that he isn't a fan of naturalisation, despite the 26 year old making it public knowledge that he would be more than willing to wear the shirt of Portugal. However in a recent interview the coach hinted at a possible change in his thoughts.
"My position has always been clear. From the moment a player is naturalised, he becomes an option. Whether or not I select him is another matter."
When he was asked directly about whether he'd drop Raul Meireles or Miguel Veloso from the side to accommodate him, he was quick to defend his current crop of midfielders.
"“Fernando is a different sort of player to them. He has been extraordinary for FC Porto, showing speed, aggressiveness and a very strong defensive game. He gives us more options. Miguel Veloso has been extraordinary for us, Raul Meireles too."
Fernando has been by far one of the stand out players in the Portuguese league for a number of years and if available he should most certainly be considered for a role at the World Cup, but whether Paulo Bento breaks with his "traditional" squad remains a question that nobody has a sure answer to.
Follow Daniel on Twitter, @dmf180593