Another game, another quiet Fernandinho masterclass from Manchester City's anti-hero

The Brazilian kept the City ball rolling as he always does against Newcastle, with one moment of simple quality underlining his value

Another game, another quiet Fernandinho masterclass from Manchester City's anti-hero
Fernandinho celebrates with Sergio Aguero after the latter's hat-trick | Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Shortly before the Christmas break, Pep Guardiola was asked if his younger self would have made the starting eleven for his current Manchester City side.

It was a fair question. He played over 250 times for Barcelona and racked up almost a half-century of caps for Spain - he certainly seems a player who may have been on the Citizens' radar, if he was around today.

"No way. No way. Fernandinho is much, much better."

It was an assured answer and one which highlighted the high esteem in which the Brazilian is held at the Etihad campus. 

In their side of playmaking goalkeepers, record-breaking strikers, livewire wingers, and world-beating playmakers, it is understandable that Fernandinho is not usually the player making the headlines. Following City's 3-1 win over Newcastle, that isn't likely to change.

Sergio Agüero bagged a hat-trick, Kevin De Bruyne notched his 10th assist of the campaign, Leroy Sané produced one of the assists of the season, all as Fernandinho went about his unglamorous work quietly and efficiently, the unseen engine powering City's all-conquering gunship.

There was a moment in the first half which encapsulated everything that makes the 32-year-old so important at the heart of this side. 

With the score still at 0-0, Newcastle were on one of their occasional forays forward which at times looked to concern a City side mostly camped in the Magpies' half.

Simple but deadly in deep midfield

As the visitors broke down the left, the ball was played into a dangerous position at the corner of the penalty area, with Jonjo Shelvey readying a shot or final pass.

He didn't have time for either. From nowhere, the ball was suddenly travelling in the other direction, flicked away from danger and then carried forward in attack by City's dependable man for all moments.

The deft touch to take the ball away from Shelvey was simple, as was the run forward 30 yards and the eventual lay-off to the advancing De Bruyne. 

The entire move, though, was counter-attacking midfield play at its absolute best. Guardiola could not ask any more of the Brazilian, and his faith would have been vindicated even further had the sublime move which City eventually put together not been halted by the offside flag as Raheem Sterling stole in to finish at the back post.

Pre-pre-pre-assists might be the domain of player-oriented Twitter accounts alone, but the starting point of such attacks is as significant as the finish, and Fernandinho would have been worthy of a pat on the back at least had the goal stood.

 

If Agüero is Messi and De Bruyne is Iniesta, Fernadinho is Busquets

It was the sort of piece of play that Guardiola would have been proud of himself and would have seen executed countless times during his time at Barcelona by Sergio Busquets.

Like the latter, Fernandinho may not be fully appreciated by fans in England until his club are tasked with finding somebody to replace him.

The rest of his game was filled with tidy passing, centre-circle interceptions, a single errant shot from range, and all the accompanying facets of a midfield performance unlikely to get people talking in the stands. 

When City are dancing with the Premier League trophy at the end of the season, he won't get the biggest cheer, or the biggest mention whenever people write about this remarkable side in the future.

But Pep Guardiola knows that his midfield lynchpin was one of the rocks on which his team was built. He might not have been the most important - but when it comes to City's ultimate anti-hero, that's sort of the point.