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When Fernandinho was a boy, he didn't pretend he was scoring goals like Romário. Nor did he patrol the midfield like tough guy Dunga.
"I have a few memories of the 1990 World Cup when one of the stars for Brazil was [goalkeeper] Cláudio Taffarel," he says. "I remember I liked him a lot and when I went out to play with my friends I would imitate Taffarel."
Fernandinho's boyhood idol says a lot about his character. The Seleção keeper's selfless service for the team was mirrored by the midfielder in his eight seasons at FC Shakhtar Donetsk, where he was one of the dressing-room leaders, taking particular care to ensure newcomers understood the Ukrainian side's culture.
The 28-year-old reckons his €40m move to Manchester City FC has not changed his role. "My main task is to make the team play well," the five-times Brazilian international says. "I have followed that all my life. The spine of a team is the midfield, so if the midfield is doing well, the team have a tendency to do well."
In the short term, doing well at his new club means helping Manchester City reach the UEFA Champions League knockout stage for the first time. While it isn't uncommon for a striker to come into a team and immediately start scoring, the transition is not always as smooth when a central midfielder is replaced. Fernandinho acknowledges the difficulty when discussing City's home hiccup against FC Bayern München on matchday two: "Bayern have been playing together a long time, while our team have just been formed."
In any case, subsequent away victories against FC Viktoria Plzeň and PFC CSKA Moskva have put City on course for the last 16 as they prepare to welcome the Russian outfit on 5 November. City can thank Shakhtar for bringing their No25 to Europe, though he says he wouldn't be here without his dad. "It was my father who was the main inspiration for me to become a football player."
Indeed, Manuel Pellegrini's new midfield general is no night-clubbing superstar, but a family man who is keen to fit in and just wants to get on with his new job. "I've settled in well here," he says. "Despite the short time it's going well, me and my family are doing well. My son is going to school, my wife is doing something she's used to and she may well also do some courses. The normal things in life are going well. In my professional life I'm playing always and everything is OK."
This is an edited version of an in-depth interview that appears in the new edition of Champions Matchday magazine. It is available in digital versions on Apple Newsstand or Zinio as well as in print. You can follow the magazine on Twitter @ChampionsMag.
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