Much has been made about Manchester City’s struggles when Fernandinho is missing from their midfield. The 33-year-old defensive midfielder has been the most crucial member of Pep Guardiola’s side, but not just for his stellar performances. Fernandinho has the unique position of having no natural replacement within the Manchester City squad.
That fact has created a lot of problems for Manchester City when he has been out injured or suspended. It has also created plenty of transfer speculation as City eventually need to find a replacement for the Brazilian. So, let’s take a look at some of those potential replacement’s, how they would fit, and which one would fit the best.
Finding The Best Fernandinho Replacement
With a club as big as Manchester City, there is always a wide range of transfers rumours. In the case of finding a Fernandinho Replacement, there is an even wider range. Players like Declan Rice at West Ham, Frenkie De Jong at Ajax, Ruben Neves at Wolves and Houssem Aouar at Lyon, just to name a few.
Now, obviously, Manchester City can’t buy all of these players. In fact, it’s more than likely they will buy none of the names above. They, plus a few others, though, are the options that City will have when looking for Fernandinho’s replacement. So, let’s look at some of these names, and some more, and see how they fit, minus Frenkie De Jong, who seems to be on his way to Paris Saint-Germain.
Rice is a 20-year-old Irish and English dual-national playing great football in the West Ham midfield. Out of this group of players, Rice is probably the worst passer, but he brings so much more. He is an excellent reader of the game, snuffing out attacks before they can reach his defenders, and he does a great job covering for his full-backs and filling in when they are caught out of position.
Plus, he is versatile. Rice has played both in central midfield and centre-back since making his debut for West Ham two years ago. That could make him even more valuable to someone like Guardiola, but Rice seems like the type of player who needs another year or two, or even three, where he is. There is no substitute for game minutes and he will have plenty more opportunities to get them at West Ham rather than City.
The young Portuguese international has already played at some of the biggest games in Portugal and the world. He was part of the Portuguese side that won Euro 2016 and played Champions League games for Porto before moving to Wolves. Since coming to English football, the 21-year-old has become a staple in one of the most impressive sides in England.
This Wolves side is probably the side, sans Liverpool, that have caused City the most trouble in the last 18 months. They were the first team to beat Man City last season, while they were in the Championship. This season, they’ve drawn with City at home before being whacked at the Etihad, as most do. Neves has shown himself quite well in those games, though.
He is a very strong defensive midfielder who makes excellent reads for such a young age. Neves is one of those rare midfielders that can average over two tackles and two interceptions per 90 minutes, which only four other Premier League midfielders are doing this season, according to Whoscored.com.
Amongst all the options, it is likely that Neves will cost the most. He is on pretty high wages for a newly promoted Premier League club, and they do not want to part with him. There were even reports that Wolves would not listen to an offer of less than £100 million. That’s way too much money for someone like Neves.
Unlike the first two players mentioned, Houssem Aouar is not going to go flying into tackles, destroying everything in his path. The 20-year-old Lyon midfielder is much more of a passer, an elegant midfielder that links the back four and attack players exceptionally well. City found that out first hand when Aouar played very well in both games against City in the Champions League this season.
Aouar and his midfield partner, Tanguy Ndombele, do a great job of circulating possession in the midfield, allowing Lyon to create more scoring opportunities. Those skills are what give Lyon the second most possession and goals in Ligue 1, behind PSG of course, but there are legitimate questions about Aouar’s steel in midfield.
Those questions would absolutely be under a microscope in England. A strong defensive midfielder is almost a necessity in England and the 5’8” Aouar is hardly that. Though Lucas Torreira is doing quite well despite being even smaller, that seems more about the Uruguayan in him. Aouar’s slick passing and skilful possession might need more weight behind it to survive in England
Thomas Partey and Rodri Hernandez
Everyone knows Atletico Madrid for their stern defence and propensity to win games 1-0. Since Diego Simeone took charge, 78 of his 250 wins have been 1-0, but the defensive style does not mean they don’t have quality players in their side. They have some of the most versatile and dynamic midfielders in Europe.
Let’s start with Rodri Hernandez, a 6’3” Spanish midfielder dubbed the heir to Sergio Busquets for the Spanish national team. He only just joined Atletico from Villareal this summer but has already impressed in Madrid. He slotted straight into the team, already starting 16 of 19 league games and completing 90% of his passes across all competitions.
The 90% passing is really impressive. Atletico like to move the ball quickly through the midfield and rarely have any players over 85% passing in a season. Rodri has slotted in and taken control of the midfield in a very Busquets like fashion.
However, because of his importance to the team, it is highly unlikely Atletico Madrid will be willing to sell their young Spanish midfielder. For the first time in their history, Atletico holds three of the best Spanish national teams best midfielders; Rodri, Saul Niguez, and Koke. The social significance of that should not be understated and Atletico will certainly do as much as possible to keep those three at the Wanda Metropolitano.
There is a defensive midfielder perfect for taking over for Fernandinho at Atletico Madrid, and his name is Thomas Partey. Partey is a Ghanian international who has been at Atletico since he moved from Ghana and joined Atletico’s youth setup in 2011. After a couple of loan moves to the Segunda, Partey has settled into a squad role with Atletico the last few seasons, gradually picking up more and more games.
He is the type midfielder you wouldn’t normally associate with a Pep Guardiola side. He’s an explosive, powerful runner that can take the ball and go past people. He’s got enough pace to play at full-back and on the right side of their midfield for Atletico at times, but he has a lot more skill than he shows; he’s one of those players who can hit a 30-yard screamer into the corner, or curve a lovely free-kick over the wall and into the net.
Partey needs a new home to expand his game even further. He has done a lot for Diego Simeone and Atletico but for the reasons above, he’s not ever going to be a starter where he is. Taking over for a soon-to-be 34-year-old is a job he can really do. He’s 25-years-old, with all the tools, both physical and technical, to make the jump to the Premier League.
The Best Fit
It’s for those reasons that Thomas Partey is the best Fernandinho replacement. A strong athlete physically ready for the Premier League, Partey would have no problems settling in at Manchester City. He is already a more skilful player than Fernandinho was when he moved from Shakhtar, nor should anyone doubt his credentials. It’s a lot more to earn Diego Simeone’s trust than just about anyone’s.
Plus, out of all the names mentioned above, Partey will absolutely cost the least. Transfer Markt values him at around £36 million, the same value on Liverpool’s Fabinho for what it’s worth. So a similar £40 million offer that Liverpool made to Monaco might be just the right number for Thomas Partey.