Round Table: The Frustrating Manuel Fernandes

RFN-RoundTableManuel Fernandes is one of the most controversial players in the Russian Premier League. His talent is obvious, and ever since an amazing bicycle kick goal against Arsenal Tula, the Lokomotiv Moscow fans have asked themselves “why is he so rarely showing his genious?”. Fernandes have started all four of Lokomotiv’s Europa League games this season, but only 1 of 14 national championship games. So, who is he: a key player or an exorbitant reserve? Does Lokomotiv deserve a player with such talent and does Fernandes deserve to play for a club with such a history? We asked experts on his current and previous teams to understand the enigma Fernandes better.

Our panel consist of:

Benfica: Tom Kundert (@PortuGoal1) of Portugoal.net

Everton: Chris Holley (@ChrisHolley_EFC) of @TNC_Russia 

Valencia: Roman Kochetkov

Besiktas: Kaan Bayazit (@Razzerian) of Besiktas-international.com
Lokomotiv: Stefano Conforti (@confortistefano) of FCLM Magazine

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What was your first impression of Manuel Fernandes?

Tom (Benfica): When he first appeared on the scene he was a very exciting player. His talent was obvious, and he combined great technique with an aggressive streak which is not often seen in Portuguese footballers. What’s more he was a big home-grown talent which has been a rarity for Benfica over last two decades.

Chris (Everton): Manuel ‘Manny’ Fernandes made an instant impression on myself and a lot of other Evertonians. In a side that didn’t have many creative players and didn’t play the most attractive football in the world, Fernandes’ abilities quickly shined through. The early spell at Portsmouth that season I feel had a good impact on Fernandes and I think that’s why he settled so quickly. Manny scored away to Watford in his third game for the club and his second goal came at home against Manchester United, that goal was special and one that still lives long in the memory, sadly thanks to injuries his playing time was limited and that was one of his only highlights. Fernandes was great that day against United, however it wasn’t his best in an Everton, a few weeks before Everton defeated Arsenal 1-0 and Fernandes produced a faultless performance, showing fantastic work rate, strength and style.

Roman (Valencia): Manu was sold to Valencia for a considerable amount of money. His move was considered as a move of a future star. Unfortunately, he fell short of expectations. A first impression that is still fresh in my memory, is his young face when he joined the club, he was quite a youngster.

Kaan (Besiktas): He looked strong on his feet and technically sound, but in his first six months he didn’t play all too much as Guti Hernandez was starting most games in his position. When he played he showed some nice things. It was clear immediately that he was a quality player.

Stefano (Lokomotiv): I thought Fernandes would have made up a fantastic couple with Boussoufa on Lokomotiv’s midfield. A couple that could have competed with the best, especially with a great coach like Leonid Kuchuk. Unfortunately, nothing seems to have gone right. Kuchuk left the team, Boussoufa was banned from the squad and he’s training individually, while Fernandes is only a reserve player.

The first matches of the Portuguese midfielder weren’t so bad. He made a good debut against Krasnodar and scored a fantastic bicycle kick against Arsenal Tula. However, his performance soon became poorer and poorer, and so he lost his spot in the starting line-up.

How would you describe his strengths and weaknesses? 

Tom: His strengths were the non-stop energy he brought to the team, combined with excellent vision and impressive technique. His one big weakness – and the thing that prevented him from having a more successful career – was a lack of application and some attitude problems. There was always the feeling that he never fully realised his potential.

Chris: As previously stated his creativity was his main strength, especially with the players he had around him, his great touch and close control was also a key factor to help him set himself apart and it got him out of a few sticky situations. The main weakness during his time at the club was his threat on the opposition goal, in his two loan spells at the club he only scored twice, the first being a tap in and the other was the stunning strike against Manchester United. Fernandes had all the ability to score more than he did at the club and he missed a few good chances during his stay.

Roman: He didn’t have Albelda’s and Baraja’s fighting qualities, although he didn’t avoid scrimmage and participated in it, he wasn’t as creative as Aimar, but wasn’t also likely to be called “wooden” [Russian term for a player with bad technique]. Perhaps, only his technique (and sharpness) stood him out, though which Portuguese doesn’t have technique? Hence, the main disadvantage, which in my opinion did not allow him to fully consolidate in Valencia, was that he didn’t have a main strength. His other disadvantage was a shady office, which held his rights and conducted affairs, so he was always involved in some murky stories during transfers. He also played 75 minutes with a broken leg (and was recovering from this injury for six months).

Kaan: His major strength without a shadow of a doubt were his sublime set-pieces, in particular during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 season where he got 10 and 12 assists respectively in 26 and 27 league appearances. As for his main flaws, i’d say it was first and foremost his attitude; when he was motivated he was a relentless player but when he couldn’t be bothered it was like there were only 10 players on the pitch, for someone who played a chunk of his career as a more defensive minded midfielder he frequently did not bother to help out the defence. If he’d lose the ball he’d just stand there signalling to his team mates “well, go get the ball!”. Another flaw was his playmaking skills, he often waited too long to give through balls and his passing wasn’t that of a real playmaker like for example Guti.

Stefano: Fernandes is a very technically skilled player. However, you won’t never see him running after another player or fighting in the midfield. He’s very calm and his pace has affected his disappointing efficiency. I think he’s able to defend very well the ball and to make accurate passes with both feet. He’s also a good penalty kicker.

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Did he live up to your expectations?

Tom: No, but that is mainly because the expectations of him were so high after the start he made to his career.

Chris: Before Fernandes came to Everton I had never heard of him if I’m being totally honest, despite that there was quite a high expectation I placed on him and I’m sure other’s did as well, with Manny coming from a European giant like Benfica he had to have something about him. For myself he met my expectations simple because of the performances against top teams like Arsenal and Manchester United, the only disappointment for me was the amount of time he missed due to injuries, there’s always a sense of what could’ve been.

Roman: Expectations turned out to be much higher. Manu did not leave any significant imprint in Valencia. He was considered a rising star, but generally speaking he didn’t become a star anywhere.

Kaan: He was not brought in under high expectations at the time, he was initially loaned for half a season and after that purchased for a low fee so I’d say he surpassed expectations.

Stefano: Of course not. I expected a much bigger contribution from him. In this moment, I can remember just a couple of games in which Fernandes made the difference. His greatest match is certainly the one against Torpedo, when he scored a decisive double.

Why did he leave the club? Do you regret it?

Tom: Like most talented Portuguese players, as soon as it became apparent he had a market abroad, he made it clear he wanted to move. Benfica fans were unhappy to see such a potentially great player go, but the disappointment was mitigated by his poor attitude. He showed little gratitude for Benfica having nurtured him through its youth system.

Chris: The transfer story of Fernandes moving to Everton permanently is a frustrating one, he was owned by Benifca and an agency which always makes things twice as complicated. Everton finally agreed a deal and after passing a medical he watched Everton’s game against Blackburn and promised David Moyes he will be an Everton player the next day. Unfortunately, on the Monday after the game Valencia agreed a deal and he signed a six-year deal, a few months later he was back on loan, but sadly that was a slightly disappointing spell, again injures effecting his playing time. Fernandes’ name is consistently liked with the club in the transfer market, before he moved to Beşiktaş he was linked and the same again before he made the switch to Lokomotiv Moscow.

There is regret there for me as I felt both the club and Fernandes missed out on something great, he was the type of player the club needed and I think he needed the club as well. Manny seemed to love playing for Everton and for me he’s failed to find consistency in his career and I think that’s something he would’ve done at Everton and perhaps grown into a better player than he has. He’s had a good career and played for some great sides, however like many potential stars your left thinking, what would’ve happened if he’d stayed?.

Roman: Manu needed match practice to get to the 2010 World Cup. He was rejected by Inter for medical reasons, he was late to leave for Portsmouth and he wasn’t getting enough playing time in Valencia. Actually he went to Besiktas to solve this problem. Team did not notice the loss, as there were at least 6 players at his position.

Kaan: Money. Pure and simple, he was having the best performances of his career in Turkey and was an instrumental player of the team during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 season. But in the summer of 2013, Russian clubs came knocking, when he only had one year of contract left. Under pressure from the fans the club refused to sell him and planned to extend his contract. For a year Fernandes gave the impression he would extend but ultimately didn’t and signed on a free for Lokomotiv Moscow. His performance in that last season also really suffered. He wasn’t the same player he was the season before, showed very little motivation and at the end of the season. I personally was happy he was gone. He had become a rotten apple.

Stefano (Why could he leave the club? Would you regret it?): If I were in the club, I’d do everything in order to sell him to the best bidder. He has one of the highest wages in the team. He’s useless. Honestly speaking, I prefer playing with Anton Miranchuk rather than with the Portuguese midfielder. Therefore, I won’t regret his departure because he usually spends the 80% of the games on the bench. This is not good, neither for him nor the club. We need to find a solution. Perhaps he can return to Portugal.

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How is he remembered among the fans?

Tom: Probably as “what might have been”. It’s easy to say now, but his career would almost certainly have benefited if he’d stayed at the club for a few years longer when he was still developing as a footballer and as a person.

Chris: Manchester United. There’s not much to say other than that really, if Fernandes is spoken about most responses will be “remember that goal he scored against?”, the sad part about that story is that Everton didn’t secure a memorable victory and instead ended up losing 4-2. Fernandes brings a mixed response, brilliant but inconsistent, the goal against United will be remembered for quite sometime and it has to be a special goal if every time someone mentions his name, even eight years later you can still remember the goal like it happened yesterday.

Roman: A solid player who was bought for € 18 million and sold for € 2 million,

Kaan: Mixed feelings, at the time when clubs came knocking and were willing to pay over € 10 million for him (summer of 2013) the vast majority of our fans were strongly opposed to his sale. But merely a year later those same fans were cursing the club’s administration for not selling him. Personally I always thought we should have sold him given his issues with professionalism that even shined through when he was having a tremendous season (he’d go out to nightclubs after matches and stay there untill the early hours in the morning, showing up to team practise with alcohol on his breath and even dragging younger players with him to the clubs). Now, I think people have realized that he wasn’t as good as they and he thought he was, like I said his set-pieces were great but he also played in the role of playmaker and in that role he simply came up short: he did not have the creative vision nor passing skills to really be an effective playmaker. Having said all that, I do miss his set-pieces as they were a real weapon for us in the two seasons in which he stood out and it would be a weapon that could really add something to our team now, I think the team would have no problem scoring 100 goals this season if we had someone with such effective set-pieces.

Stefano: Fernandes is considered as a good player by the fans. However, everyone knows that he won’t make the difference in the crucial moments of a match. As a consequence, the demands on him aren’t as big as with Miranchuk, for example. He is too inconsistent to rely on.

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Follow Ilya on Twitter: @Lokosokol

Author: Ilya Sokolov

I became interested in football after the 1998 World Cup. Despite my dad wanting me to support Dynamo, I chose Lokomotiv (the name sounded great) and soon saw the team win the league for the first time in its history. Besides Loko, I also like watching Amateur League games in Moscow and its suburbs.

Comments

  1. Jean-Luc Nelaton says:

    Please, stop the “he’s good at this or good at that”, his talent is nothing compared to his cocky, racist, arrogant, impolite, lack of education, lack of manners and disrespectful personality.
    I had him and his wife Mikaela spending holidays on my island, and they’ve been nothing but troubles ! The worst clients I’ve had in 15 years in hospitality business ! On his entire week stay he made only enemies !

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