Liverpool star Fabinho has been identified by Gary Neville as the Premier League’s best defensive midfielder, usurping the likes of previous candidates N’Golo Kante and Fernandinho in the process.
Furthermore, Neville believes the Brazilian star is the perfect example to the likes of upcoming talents Declan Rice and Scott McTominay, who have been urged to “study” the performances of Liverpool’s No 3 to improve their own game.
Fabinho joined Liverpool in a £43.7m switch from Monaco in summer 2018, with the Reds rejecting the chance to sign two other Premier League stars in favour of the Brazilian.
The player has on Tuesday opened up as to why working to the demands of Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool are difficult, but judging by Neville’s claims about the player, you’d think he’s pretty much got the game cracked.
In praising the way Fabinho breaks up play and carries the ball up the field, Neville told Sky Sports: “You talk about England, World Cups and European Championships, Premier League, Fabinho is absolutely sensational on the ball, [Sergio] Busquets is unbelievable on the ball.
“I think Fabinho at the moment is the best. Because what Fabinho does actually, he doesn’t sit back in games. These holding midfield players who just play horizontally, passing sideways, shuttling across, but Fabinho plays vertically as well.
“He goes forward with his passes, he moves forward and steps in and wins the ball back. I think the best holding midfield players aren’t just people who basically shuffle across and make it look simple, they also step into the game.
“It’s the ability of knowing where you are with your back to play. I played the odd game in midfield and it was awful, even when I was full-back and I ended up in midfield just out of position sometimes and someone plays a pass into you, you think, “Oh, what’s behind me?”
“The great players they know what’s over their shoulder, they receive it on the half turn, they take the ball to the right side when there’s a player coming from the other side.”
One man who could learn plenty from Fabinho’s displays are West Ham star Rice, with Neville admitting that he doubts whether suitors Manchester United paying £80m+ for the England man would be shrewd.
However, he believes Rice and another upcoming holding midfielder in McTominay can learn a great deal by studying Fabinho in action.
‘They’ve got that ability to do it,” he added. “I think there’s another player at Manchester United, Scott McTominay, who’s having that similar type of journey.
“These two players are doing absolutely brilliantly, they’re great lads, you can just tell their great lads, but then you talk about measuring them against the great midfield players.
“Once you’re at that level, when you’re playing for Man United or England [in Rice’s case], it’s not harsh to judge them at that level with their contemporaries. Which is Fabinho, it is the best players in Europe, like Busquets.
“They’ve got a lot of development to do, but I think they’re on track. So there’s no sort of criticism here, it’s whether they get their next jump up which is the ability to receive the ball in tight situations, on the half turn, in the biggest matches, under the biggest pressure, against the best players.”
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