Fernandinho signs one-year contract extension with Man City

By Sports Desk January 28, 2020

Fernandinho will not be leaving Manchester City at the end of the season after the Brazilian secured a one-year contract extension.

The 34-year-old was seemingly set to depart in July, with his previous deal approaching its conclusion, but City have ensured he will be around for at least another season.

An intelligent combative midfielder, Fernandinho joined City from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013 and has been a revelation, appearing in at least 29 Premier League matches in every campaign.

He has remained a key figure this term, playing 20 of the champions' 24 top-flight games, filling in at centre-back for many of those due to City's defensive injury crisis.

And choosing to remain at the club for another season was a straightforward decision.

"It was easy," he told City's official website.

"There is a time in your life when you don't think just about yourself, but especially about your family and your kids. They were one of the reasons I decided to sign another contract.

"I am happy, my family is happy, so I hope the City fans are happy as well."

City are already set to lose David Silva this year, with the Spaniard previously confirming his plan to return to Spain to be closer to his family.

Fernandinho has won three Premier League titles at City, though he looks unlikely to add to that tally this season with Liverpool 16 points clear of Pep Guardiola's men at the summit.

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    Davide Zappacosta and Marko Pjaca have joined Genoa on loan from Chelsea and Juventus respectively.

    Zappacosta, 28, spent last term in Serie A with Roma but made only nine league appearances, having suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury while in the capital.

    The right-back joined the Blues in 2017, yet, having featured regularly across his debut campaign, he earned just one Premier League start in his second term.

    He appears to have fallen down the pecking order under Frank Lampard following the emergence of Reece James, but is under contract until 2022.

    Winger Pjaca, 25, has been at Juventus since 2016 after signing on a five-year deal from Dinamo Zagreb.

    However, the Croatian has failed to establish himself in the Bianconeri's first team – for whom he last played a Serie A game in March 2017 – and his spell at Genoa will be his latest loan away from the club after stints with Schalke, Fiorentina and Anderlecht.

    Genoa, who finished 17th in Serie A last season and narrowly avoided relegation, begin the new campaign at home to Crotone on Sunday.

  • Next Generation – Kulusevski's youth coaches outline the perfect pupil as Juventus bow awaits Next Generation – Kulusevski's youth coaches outline the perfect pupil as Juventus bow awaits

    As a kid, Dejan Kulusevski always appeared to have something special about him.

    This quality didn't lend itself to a brash, arrogant personality, rather his self-belief reflected a quiet confidence, a humble attitude.

    While the young Swedish winger might have started the 2019-20 season as something of an unknown quantity for many as he began a loan spell with Parma, to those who know him best he has been on the path to excellence for a long time.

    A product of Brommapojkarna's academy, Kulusevski's ambition – and ability – had seen him stand out way before he secured a move to Atalanta soon after his 16th birthday in July 2016.

    Four years on, Kulusevski is a Juventus player, having cost an initial €35million, and preparing for his first competitive match with the Bianconeri on Sunday, as Sampdoria visit Turin.

    A lot has changed in such a short period, but those who have been key to his development are adamant Kulusevski has the character to cope.

    A quest for personal improvement

    Roland Nilsson, now Sweden's Under-21 coach, has worked with Kulusevski since he was just 15. "I worked with him with the Under-16s and I could see he was a very good player," he told Stats Perform News. "We knew straight away that clubs from abroad had been there watching and I could understand why.

    "It was one of those where it was always decided [moving abroad early]. When he talked about moving to Italy, that was his thing, to progress as a footballer and educate himself in the long run, not the short term. He needed to go somewhere to educate himself, he knew it would be hard and he knew the work that needed to be put in was his own."

    Kulusevski moved to Bergamo alone to live in club-arranged accommodation, taking him completely out of his comfort zone and away from everything he knew – but his mentality had already set him apart from others.

    "It was going to be tough but his mind was set to do the job and being focused on it, which has been a strength of his through the years," Nilsson continued. "You're always surprised when it goes that quickly [for a player], but at the same time, with the skills he has, his mental strength as well and the awareness of what he needs to be doing, those are the key things for him, and the work rate he puts in on the pitch shows he's serious about what he's doing."

    Andreas Engelmark, first-team assistant and technical director at Brommapojkarna, has known Kulusevski even longer, first coaching him in 2012 when the tricky winger – then just 12 – played in the year above his age group. The pair even trained together during the coronavirus pandemic.

    "He's an easy guy to work with because he's always going to give you everything," Engelmark told Stats Perform News. "His mindset is very strong, he was confident he was going to make it back then and I think he's confident he's going to do well now. All players have doubt in themselves at times, but his mindset – he believes in himself but at the same time is humble."

    'He has everything necessary to be a success'

    There was never any doubt about Kulusevski's ability – technically gifted and a fine dribbler, but he wasn't without fault, as Engelmark explained: "The first time I coached him I was like, 'this guy has a great skill set but he's not working hard enough, not defending, he needs to use his team-mates more'."

    Engelmark found a player receptive to such feedback and always willing to learn, taking criticism on board and using it to further himself, which subsequently improved him individually and the team.

    "His work rate got higher and higher, but when we played good opponents he worked even harder," Engelmark continued. "In the last six months to a year with me, I think something happened – he started working harder than everyone else. He was our best player offensively, but he was also the guy who worked the most."

    Nilsson also noticed that improvement. "He knows that has been a bit of his weakness before, but he's taken that along with everything else and that's what he shows today – he does everything up and down [the wing]."

    Such observations are backed up by the fact Kulusevski managed 5.25 ball recoveries and 4.22 dribbles per 90 minutes last term, both well above the respective averages for his position (4.1 and 0.92).

    Kulusevski has just a single full season of Serie A experience under hit belt, though there was a maturity to his performances while on loan at Parma last term that belies his fledgling status.

    With 10 goals and eight assists in Serie A, he was the youngest player across Europe's top five leagues to reach at least eight in both metrics and the first foreign under-21 talent to net 10 times in Italy's top flight since 2012-13.

    Similarly, of all players in Europe's top five leagues to accumulate 15 goal involvements in 2019-20, only Erling Haaland was younger – by three months – than Kulusevski.

    Nevertheless, Engelmark feels Kulusevski will be challenged by transitioning – both mentality and performance-wise – from the expectations he has previously experienced, to those at perennial-winners Juventus.

    "He has everything necessary to be a success at that level, but what will be interesting is his consistency," he mused. "At Parma obviously his team-mates were good, but not top-level like at Juve now. At Parma they were defending a lot and they get out on the counter, so obviously he can go in and out of the game and it doesn't really matter.

    "For them, dominating isn't so important, it's about being smart and taking your chances, but at Juventus obviously they dominate teams, so it'll be important to be consistent for 90 minutes and be involved more."

    Kulu the craftsman

    With Parma, Kulusevski was one of the revelations of the 2019-20 season, his creative talents earmarking him as among the best.

    His 78 key passes worked out at 2.17 per match, more than double the average for players in his position (1.02). In turn, he averaged 0.22 assists every 90 minutes, but the norm for others in similar roles was 0.09.

    One of Kulusevski's most obvious strengths is his ability on the ball, with his close control aided by the fact he is strong on both feet (four goals came with his weaker right foot).

    He completed 77 dribbles last season, 2.14 every 90 minutes, which is also a major increase on the 0.92 average for Kulusevksi's position.

    Similarly, the young Swede proved himself a notable threat in front of goal. While players in comparable roles would expect 0.35 shots on target every game, Kulusevski's record was 0.72.

    As Engelmark noted, one of the main differences for Kulusevski this term will be the change from playing in a team used to being on the back foot to one generally in the ascendancy.

    He appears to have the all-round capabilities to be a real asset, particularly given his attacking output was excellent for a middling team, but maintaining that and producing consistently under greater pressure will be a new challenge.

    For players of a certain age and skill set, there can be a tendency to go overboard when attempting to establish themselves, and Nilsson's advice is to take belief in what has gone before.

    "I would say, go out and play the way as you've done before, not 'over-proving' for everyone else that he's a good player. They know he is good, but you need to show everyone else that you are, and when you move to a team like Juve you need to show up."

    The special attributes he has shown since he was a kid will stand Kulusevski in good stead, but arguably the vital element will be his mentality – Nilsson and Engelmark appear in no doubt this all-action winger will leave no stone unturned in his quest to reach the top.

  • Serie A: As novice coach Pirlo launches Juventus reign, for every Guardiola there's a Shearer Serie A: As novice coach Pirlo launches Juventus reign, for every Guardiola there's a Shearer

    Andrea Pirlo was untouchable at the height of his playing career, a footballer whose grace and prowling presence drew widespread admiration and struck fear into rival teams.

    As a coach, we can surmise but really it is a guessing game as to what we will be getting from Pirlo as the dugout rookie leads Juventus into the 2020-21 season.

    On Sunday evening in Italy, the man who was a World Cup winner in 2006 takes charge of his first Serie A game with Juve, who play Sampdoria in Turin.

    Maurizio Sarri's Juve reign lasted just one season, albeit another Scudetto-yielding campaign for the most successful club in the league's history. Pirlo will be expected to deliver at least that level of success, and encourage a swagger too.

    He joins a host of significant former players plucked for leadership roles at an elite level, typically on a hunch rooted in familiarity, the chosen ones often still fresh from their playing days and with scant experience to call on. Top marks in coaching exams provide no guarantee that success will follow.

    Many times, the gamble on a colt coach has paid off, with presidents and owners rightly sensing the novice harbours the innate expertise to lead and to inspire, and crucially to bring results. On other occasions, it has ended in frustration and tears, and in some instances the jury remains out.

    Here is a look at just some of those cases, illustrating how there are no guarantees attached to such appointments.

    PEP GUARDIOLA

    The go-to example for any club that wishes to justify appointing a club legend to sudden seniority on the coaching side, former midfield general Guardiola was just 37 when he took charge at Barcelona in 2008, after a year coaching the B team. He departed four years and 14 trophies later, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League triumphs, and was vaunted as the world's best coach.

    Further successes have come with Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Plainly, Pep was born to lead and Barcelona were wise to the fact.

    ZINEDINE ZIDANE

    How would Zidane, the mercurial playmaker – the only rival to Brazil striker Ronaldo when assessing the greatest player of their generation – take to coaching? Could the erstwhile Galactico tease out the best from those who can but dream of matching the twinkling feet and god-gifted balance with which he was blessed? Could the former Real Madrid maestro really be a suitable fit for the Bernabeu job that has swallowed up many an experienced coach?

    Three Champions Leagues and two LaLiga titles later, we probably have a decent idea of the answer to those questions. There have still been ups and downs, and a brief split along the way, but 18 months in charge of Madrid's B team – Castilla – hardened Zidane for the obstacles he would face in the top job. His Madrid sides have at times lacked the verve that was his signature as a player, but they have delivered results and abundant trophies, and ultimately that is what counts.

    MICHEL PLATINI

    Before there was Zidane, France had Platini. A wonder of an attacking midfielder with Nancy, Saint-Etienne and Juventus, Platini was also a goalscoring titan of the France team that won Euro 84 and reached semi-finals at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups. It followed, to those that knew him, that Platini would go on to become a great national-team coach too, and at the age of 33 he was appointed to lead France, having retired as a player a year earlier. Platini took over with France already at a low ebb and defeats under his charge against Yugoslavia and Scotland meant they missed out on reaching the 1990 World Cup.

    Could Platini bounce back? It seemed he might when France reached Euro 92 in style, with eight wins from eight qualifiers, Platini nurturing the likes of Didier Deschamps and Laurent Blanc, but Les Bleus flopped at the tournament itself as they and England bowed out of a group from which Sweden and Denmark advanced. Platini resigned not long afterwards, began to forge a solid reputation in football administration, and by the late 1990s had built a strong, ultimately fateful, alliance with the then FIFA secretary general Sepp Blatter. He would never coach again.

    DIEGO MARADONA

    If there were ever a case of being blinded by celebrity, then some of the presidents who have given Diego Armando Maradona coaching work surely have fallen victim. The biggest star of his generation, Maradona retired from playing in 1997 and, with barely a sniff of coaching experience and just about as much baggage as an airport carousel, was named boss of his native Argentina in 2008, tasked with taking the Albicelestes to the World Cup two years later. Argentina scraped their way into the finals and were thumped 4-0 by Germany in the quarter-finals. Maradona's contract was not renewed.

    He has continued to pick up coaching work, one curious-looking appointment after another, most recently with Gimnasia in the Argentinian top flight. Maradona the coach has been no match for Maradona the player, and it was naive surely for anyone to think that was ever remotely possible.

    FRANK LAMPARD

    Pirlo was an artist of the 21st century game, and he is considered a deep thinker, while the common theory is that English midfield counterpart Lampard achieved much of his success through hard graft and maximising his rather more rudimentary talent. Whether either categorisation fits the bill is a moot point, but Lampard has a wiser head on his shoulders than many footballers, was top of the class in his school days, and his IQ is reputed to be through the roof.

    Derby County gave him a first break in coaching but it took Chelsea just a year to pounce and parachute Lampard into his first Premier League manager's job. A Stamford Bridge great as a player, Lampard had an acceptable first season as Blues boss but the acid test comes in this new term after a spree of big-money signings. A high-stakes London gamble will play out in the coming months.

    ALAN SHEARER

    As Pirlo takes charge of those in the Bianconeri stripes he once wore – Cristiano Ronaldo and all – it bears remembering that returning black and white messiahs can fail. Former Newcastle United striker Shearer returned to St James' Park in April 2009, the club's record goalscorer aiming to rescue the team from the threat of relegation, but a dismal return of five points from eight games saw them sink out of the Premier League.

    Shearer left and has not coached since, happily staying in his niche as a television pundit. There are pressures but also a certain comfort to that studio role. Two months at Newcastle was the sum of Shearer's coaching career: as Pirlo may yet find out, that can be all it takes to destroy the notion of it being a natural next step.

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