Stephen Tudor of The Daisy Cutter looks back at Fernando’s difficult first year at Manchester City…
Manchester City’s swoop for Porto’s midfield enforcer Fernando Francisco Reges was long mooted so there was little surprise when he eventually put pen to paper on a £12m switch in the summer of 2014.
What was surprising was finding out how many Blues regularly enjoyed Primeira Liga games, foregoing Sky’s domestic Super Sunday offering or a marquee La Liga or Serie A clash in favour of sourcing Vitória de Guimarães v Porto on a jumpy stream. Let’s be quite clear here: these honest folk did not simply watch a few highlight reels on YouTube. They were ardent aficionados of Portuguese football which, by default, made their assessment of the 25 year old Brazilian worth listening to. They definitely didn’t just watch YouTube clips.
What they told us was here was a serious upgrade on Javi Garcia, City’s popular but slow-as-ketchup midfield anchor who was in the process of being shipped off to Zenit. Fernando was a ferocious combination of Latin nous and bruising endeavour and, considering our FFP restrictions, we had landed ourselves a real bargain.
The initial showings mercifully seemed to back this up. An energetic debut up at Newcastle was swiftly followed by a 90 minute bossing of Steven Gerrard in a victory over Liverpool.
So far, so bargain.
Soon after however it all began to unravel. A delayed struggle to adapt to the frenetic pace of the Premier League was exacerbated considerably by being partnered alongside Yaya Toure, a player who viewed the very notion of tracking back as something lesser beings did.
Horribly exposed in space so too his flaws were revealed for all to see. Fernando passed in instalments and was so laboured in thought and creativity you suspected his passport was a whopping lie. If option A wasn’t available he would simply wait until option A was available and witnessing him in possession brought to mind Davina McCall announcing the latest evictee from the Big Brother house. Ever noticed how, as one series ran into another, her pauses between “And the next person to leave the Big Brother house is…” and saying the name became preposterous? You actually forgot what you were watching, then remembered – yet still the silence persisted – until you drifted off again, wondering whether a fourth takeaway that week really was a good idea.
That was Fernando with the ball at his feet, while all around him Silva, Nasri, and Aguero made intelligent runs into the channels wondering whether their team-mate ever planned to release.
Elsewhere his positioning was, well, elsewhere most of the time, and while Nemanja Matic commanded the same role at Chelsea with straight-backed aplomb many at City found themselves mourning the cheap disposing of De Jong, Barry, and yes even Garcia.
So he’s a dud right? Not quite, or at least it isn’t yet as clear-cut as that.
A superb showing in Rome – free from the onus of covering for Yaya in a game that perfectly suited his chippy dismantling – was a genuinely encouraging sign while an upturn in form towards the end of 2014/15 bodes well for the future.
The verdict remains out then on Fernando Francisco Reges but we can certainly put to bed the suggestion that £12m for this ponderer from Porto was a bargain. His struggle to impose himself in a midfield that struggled to impose itself was ultimately very costly indeed.