MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) – Pep Guardiola believes his brilliant Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho can extend his Manchester City career by moving back to central defence on a permanent basis as he ages.
The 33-year-old has been a key figure in the success enjoyed by Guardiola over the past two seasons and in City’s ongoing bid to retain their Premier League title
His versatility has also seen him look increasingly effective on occasion at centre-half, a role he performed so effectively in last weekend’s comfortable 3-1 win over Arsenal.
Now Guardiola, who extended Javier Mascherano’s career at Barcelona with a similar positional switch, reckons Fernandinho could benefit from the same move in England.
“I think he can play in that position, I am pretty sure,” said City manager Guardiola.
“He is fast, he is strong in the air, good going backwards and when he sees the football in front of him, his vision for the pass inside, switch of play is excellent,” the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss explained.
“So he is intelligent to go forward or go backwards, so he understands everything. Of course he has to train more at it. I think he can do it, but his position is as a midfield player.”
Guardiola appeared to have gambled last week when he left England centre-half John Stones on the bench and played Fernandinho in the heart of City’s defence instead.
And he joked that should that ploy fail next time, he knows what reaction he can expect for his selection.
“I know what is going to happen, we are going to lose when Fernandinho plays in that position,” he said. “I am a genius, huh?
“But I discover a surprise for the opponents doing that and I know what is going to happen,” the Spaniard added.
“’Why do you take a risk and leave GBP45 million on the bench when he can play in that position?’ And I know that.”
Fernandinho’s contract runs out next year, by which time he will be 35, which has focussed Guardiola’s attention on finding his successor, although the City boss admits that is not an easy process.
“We have some options and are looking for some options but today it is not easy to find the player and to buy the player so we will see. You know, we spoke many times about that. We are trying to help Fernandinho in that position.”