Manchester City captain Fernandinho has opened up on the build-up, details and reaction to a speech he gave to his fellow teammates in January of this year, as the squad struggled for form and were significantly underperforming.
The 35 year-old has been discussing a multitude of topics in an exclusive conversation with The Player's Tribune, in which he opens up on the details of his speech - which has been credited by some to have been the turning point in the season for Manchester City and Pep Guardiola.
On the training session that highlighted the depth of the problems at Manchester City, Fernandinho said, "It was not a good session. The attitude, the body language, the effort from some players, it was just obvious. Misplaced passes, players not tracking back, not running, not looking interested. This was not us. This was not the team that had won two titles in a row, or that had set a record points total."
The former Shakhtar Donetsk star spoke of New Year's Eve, when the firework celebrations weren't enough to distract him from the problems at the Etihad Stadium.
"Even on New Year’s Eve watching fireworks with my family I was thinking about my duty as captain to Manchester City. The next day, at 7 a.m. 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.”
Fernandinho labelled the meeting with the Manchester City squad as an 'emergency', but reiterated the need for honesty and firm conversation given the severity of the situation at the club - which was putting the side at risk of not qualifying for the Champions League, had an intervention from the captain not come along.
"It was an emergency. Once we got everyone together, I spoke openly to them. I spoke as captain, you know? 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."
He continued, "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. And it was important that we talked. We were still at a point in the campaign where we could turn things around. Or we could passively watch it slide away."
Fernandinho was keen to highlight the impact of his intervention meeting, with the following game away at Chelsea seeing a confident and dominant 3-1 victory over Frank Lampard's Chelsea.
However, the Brazilian veteran highlights just show close he was to losing complete faith in his teammates.
"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. By halftime we were 3–0 up. We ran almost too much! Thank God, since then we’ve been on an amazing, record-breaking run. We got back into the hurricane."
Many Manchester City fans have been calling for the renewal of Fernandinho's contract, with his current deal set to expire in June along with Sergio Aguero.
The leadership qualities shown by the player this season will only strengthen the calls for a new deal, but as no decision has been formally announced by the club, there may be reason to be optimistic.
You can read the full conversation from Fernandinho in The Player's Tribune here.
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