Fernandinho scolded Man City’s ‘uninterested’ stars after awful training session back in December

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Fernandinho (second left) revealed a December meeting held by him has been the difference in Manchester City


While the Carabao Cup won’t be at the top of Manchester City’s wish list this season, it is an opportunity for their skipper Fernandinho to make history with a record sixth victory in the competition.

Fernandinho, rarely spoken about in the same glowing terms as other modern club legends Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure, has been every bit as influential and hailed by Pep Guardiola as an ‘authentic leader’.

So influential in fact, that it was Fernandinho, not his manager, who delivered the New Year’s Day call to arms which transformed City’s season. The man who by his own admission is ‘not a guy who makes big speeches’ felt he had no option after a particularly lacklustre training session which incurred his displeasure and the wrath of his manager.

Fernandinho (second left) revealed a December meeting held by him has been the difference in Manchester City’s season

‘I really had no choice,’ said the 35-year-old Brazilian. ‘It was 31 December, New Year’s Eve. We were eighth in the Premier League table. And we had just finished training. And Pep wasn’t happy.’

The midfielder feared that the shortened pre-season, the constant Covid testing, all the new routines associated with adapting to the new normal, meant City were losing their mental edge. ‘And that’s what has put us over the top,’ he told The Players’ Tribune. ‘That’s what had made us champions.

‘On New Year’s Eve we had this training session. It was not a good session. The attitude, the body language, the effort from some players, it was just obvious. This was not us.

‘After that session, Pep came and spoke to me as captain, as the leader of the team. He was blunt. He told me that not everyone was at 100 per cent. And, in this team, when you come to train, you do it at 100 per cent, or you stay home. There is no negotiation.

‘He was right. And he made it clear that the responsibility for keeping those standards rested with me.

‘After that session, I went home to be with my family for the celebrations, but I couldn’t get that conversation with Pep out of my head.

‘The next day, at 7am on January 1, 2021, I sent a message to our team manager and told him, “Set up a meeting with the players. We need to talk.”

‘I arrived at the ground in the morning ahead of training, and I said, “Tell Pep we’ll start training a little later today.” It was an emergency.

The Brazilian said Pep Guardiola (right) told him everyone was not at 100 per cent in Decmber

The Brazilian said Pep Guardiola (right) told him everyone was not at 100 per cent in Decmber 

‘Once we got everyone together, I spoke openly — I spoke as captain. I told them what Pep had told me, that some things are inexcusable. I told them that what you do in training reflects back at you later on in the game. It was very frank, very honest. After me, all the others spoke their minds too. Everyone already knew we needed to change, but we needed to hear it said. We needed to be shaken.

‘Our next game was away at Chelsea, who were flying in the league at the time. Before the match, I thought to myself, “If these guys don’t run here, that’s it, I’m done!” I was ready to lose all morale. But, of course, we won. We won well. Thank God, since then we’ve been on an amazing, record-breaking run.’

This afternoon at Wembley represents another chance for the midfielder to step into the limelight, to lift his first trophy since being elected captain by his team-mates after Silva’s summer exit.

This will be his sixth final, equalling the record held by Ian Rush and Emile Heskey, and victory would give him a record sixth winners’ medal. Aguero would also be a six-time winner if he plays.

Fernandinho scolded his City team-mates after a poor training session at the end of December

Fernandinho scolded his City team-mates after a poor training session at the end of December

Fernandinho’s first medal for City came in the League Cup, beating Sunderland in the 2014 final. He was part of the side that defeated Liverpool on penalties in 2016 and City have since won the past three finals, a testament to the strength of their squad.

‘The most important thing is when you win titles and trophies, you get that hunger to win even more. That’s what we have here,’ said Fernandinho.

‘Personal achievements are always good of course but they have never been my main targets. For me, the collective effort is always what’s important. You need everyone around you to win a trophy. I’m looking to win my sixth League Cup and winning as a team will also give us great confidence going into the final few games of the season and hopefully win the Premier League.’

Following in the footsteps of Vincent Kompany and Silva as City captains to lift a trophy above his head would be ‘special’ for Fernandinho whose selfless displays as a midfield enforcer over the years have helped the talented creative players ahead of him to shine.

Fernandinho's meeting came just days before a 3-1 victory away at Chelsea on January 3

Fernandinho’s meeting came just days before a 3-1 victory away at Chelsea on January 3

‘It’s a real honour to be captain of this club, from the moment I was asked it has been a pleasure,’ he said. ‘It was a special moment for me and something I am really enjoying. The responsibility is high, but that’s something I like. I’ve been here eight seasons and spent a lot of time with the club’s former captains, who I spoke to about the role within the squad.’

This season was supposed to be trickier for City because of last season’s Champions League campaign spilling into the summer. An early 5-2 home loss to Leicester also had alarm bells ringing.

‘We responded in the best way possible,’ said Fernandinho, whose side are 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League and into the Champions League semi-finals. ‘We’re really happy with things now and how the season has gone, not just because of the results but because of the way we have been playing,’ he said.

Fernandinho's City won their next 12 Premier League matches after the Brazilian's meeting

Fernandinho’s City won their next 12 Premier League matches after the Brazilian’s meeting

Unusually, Fernandinho has spent 16 years in Europe with just two clubs, having previously enjoyed a long stint with Shakhtar Donetsk.

He praises Guardiola for keeping things fresh. ‘He completely changed my understanding of football, in a better way,’ he said.

‘He has helped me a lot, from the way I play my game to the way I behave on the pitch. I am really grateful for him and to the club. I remember that first League Cup win in 2014. To celebrate with the fans at Wembley was a great way to start my Manchester City career. From that moment, my desire to win trophies became even bigger.’ 



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