Fabinho: the fearsome Monaco full-back creating a Manchester tug-of-war
Fabinho has only just made his move to Monaco permanent, but Andrew Gibney says a big-money switch to the Premier League looks inevitable for the highly rated 21-year-old...
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Date of birth: October 23, 1993
Place of birth: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Height: 6ft 2in
Current club: Monaco (84 apps, 3 goals)
International: Brazil (2 caps, 0 goals)
After winning promotion back to Ligue 1 in 2013, Monaco splashed the cash to bring in the likes of Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho to help the club finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain in their first season back in the top flight.
Fábio Henrique Tavares – otherwise known as Fabinho, at just 19 years old, flew mostly under the radar despite enjoying an excellent debut season at the Stade Louis II.
The Brazilian moved to Europe in 2012, joining Portuguese club Rio Ave from Fluminense's reserve squad. He was quickly shunted to Real Madrid Castilla on loan just weeks after arriving on the continent, however, and spent a season in Spain. The young full-back even managed an appearance for Los Blancos' first team before Claudio Ranieri took the youngster to the French principality on a similar deal. In two years on loan, the 21-year-old has leapt from relative obscurity to become one of Ligue 1’s best full-backs, impressing in the Champions League and also winning his first international caps for the Seleção. Fabinho has gained so much experience in such a short time – and it’s easy to see why big clubs are beginning to take an interest.
Why you need to know him
After spending two separate loan spells at the Monegasque club, it was only in May this year that Fabinho signed a four-year permanent deal, committing himself to Monaco until 2019.
Already it's looking like a shrewd piece of business by the Ligue 1 side, what with both Manchester United and Manchester City having been linked with a €25 million bid for the full-back.
Fabinho has been an integral part of the club's success, both domestically and in the Champions League. His displays have been so mature and impressive that it's easy to forget he is so early in his development.
Monaco have a good recent history of developing youngsters to cultivate them for cash, but regardless of how you run your club, that level of profit can’t be ignored. If those reports materialise, Leonardo Jardim's men will be hard pushed to turn down such an offer.
Standing at 6ft 2in, Fabinho isn't your typical full-back. Much in the same mould as the legendary Cafu, he has a rangy stride and loves to get up and down the flank. He is powerful and strong on the ball, making him a nightmare at both ends of the pitch.
Unlike a lot of modern full-backs, though, he can actually defend too. The right-back showed against Arsenal in the Champions League that he is also capable of playing as a defensive midfielder.
His positioning not just in that game, but throughout his time at Monaco, has impressed. He reads and understands the game extremely well, which allows him to stop danger before it happens. When he's forced to go to ground, his tackles are usually well-timed and successful.
For someone who spends a lot of time in the opposition half, it’s surprising that Fabinho has only managed two Ligue 1 assists in as many seasons. He does get involved in attacks, giving Monaco a great option on the right wing, but his final ball can sometimes lack a touch of quality.
Prospective suitors will hope that element of his game will improve with time, though perhaps the way that Jardim’s side play – with no real target man up front – limits his opportunities.
The biggest question mark against full-backs in Ligue 1 is how they cope against pacey wingers trying to get in behind. Generally French football lacks that threat, with most of the play coming in front of the defence.
However, when faced up against different styles in the Champions League, Monaco only conceded five goals in 10 games – Fabinho played in every match and was a huge part of their impressive defensive play.
"Fabinho has shown all his talent since his arrival and we are happy to sign him permanently," expressed Monaco vice president Vadim Vasilyev when the club announced his permanent deal back in May.
"His versatility, his youth and his attitude mark him out as a player with a big future. It's also a source of pride to see him make it into the Brazilian squad."
Monaco had planned for Fabinho to be one of the young players that they built their new-look squad around, but they know that they're in no place to turn down a big-money offer.
Did you know?
When Fabinho made his one and only appearance for the Real Madrid first team, he came on for Fabio Coentrao in the 76th minute of a 6-2 mauling of Malaga at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Brazilian made it a night to remember too, setting up Angel Di Maria for the sixth goal in stoppage time. After advancing down the right wing he cut the ball back for the Argentine, who found the bottom corner.
What happens next?
Fabinho is at the early stages of what looks to be a blossoming career. In his two years at Monaco, the 21-year-old has achieved more than anyone would have expected of him. Jardim will be disappointed to lose such an influential player, but when teams like Manchester United and City come in, you can rarely stand in a young player’s way. The experience gained in Ligue 1 will give Fabinho the best opportunity to succeed in the Premier League. He has the speed and strength to settle quickly, and the know-how from playing in the Champions League to not be overawed by the leap in expectations. Whoever is successful in luring the Brazilian away from Monte Carlo is signing an exciting and dynamic young player; one who is already mature beyond his years. They may have to pay over the odds to secure him, but in the long run there's little doubt that he'll be worth it.
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