Fabinho hasn’t showcased great form for Liverpool over the past year, but he looks set to keep his place at Anfield next term as possible successors go elsewhere.
Jürgen Klopp’s squad has suffered a collective drop in quality over the past 12 months, with many of the German’s trusted lieutenants simply struggling to perform as effectively as they have in the past. Except for Alisson Becker, many of the elite performers at Anfield have been a shadow of their former selves.
Fabinho is certainly one of them, with the Brazilian international previously known for his intensity, aggression, timing, and physicality. After signing for the Reds from AS Monaco in 2018, he evolved to become the ultimate fire extinguisher on Merseyside, but one who always kept a cool head regardless of what surrounded him.
Indeed, at his very best, Fabinho thrived as the calm amid Liverpool’s storm, with Pep Lijnders once describing him as a ‘lighthouse’ for the team. Klopp has his nickname for the Reds number three, having labeled him as ‘Dyson’ many years ago due to his ability to sweep up loose balls like a vacuum.
“I like the fact that there are plays and movements that I can anticipate to intercept some passes,” he told UEFA last year. “I like to steal the ball, take the ball from the other team, and many times, depending on where you win the ball, you can put a team-mate through into a good attacking position. I think that’s what I enjoy doing the most.”
Klopp has also touched on his importance to his team on the defensive side of the game, stating: “He saves our lives. He gives us opportunities to play the way we play, together with the two center-halves, so we can focus on offensive stuff.”
Now aged 29, Fabinho has just experienced arguably the worst campaign of his career. Liverpool conceded far too many goals and chances, finished fifth in the Premier League table, and failed to secure a single piece of silverware, having exited every cup competition by the middle of March.
The South American midfielder has been responsible for many of the attacks that his teammates have suffered from, which captures why his place in the team has been debated by some sections of supporters. With Fabinho now potentially past his peak, Klopp could have considered replacing him this summer.
However, that seems unlikely to happen. Liverpool is linked with a whole host of midfielders, but hardly any of them play as a holding presence like Fabinho, with the Reds chasing more advanced performers such as Mason Mount, Ryan Gravenberch, Khéphren Thuram and Alexis Mac Allister, who joined recently.
One of the few holding players who has been tipped for a switch to Anfield is João Palhinha. The Fulham fulcrum has made a real impression in the Premier League since moving to England last summer, which explains why he’s emerged as a possible threat to Fabinho future.
Palhinha has depicted shades of Fabinho this term, exhibiting real endeavor and fight on the field. He placed top of the division for tackles and interceptions with a remarkable total of 193 this season, which put him in a league of his own ahead of Moisés Caicedo in second on 156, followed by Idrissa Gana Gueye on 153 and Declan Rice on 142.
The latter could be about to provide Fabinho with a transfer boost. Rice is on the verge of leaving West Ham United, potentially to join Arsenal, and Hammers boss David Moyes is lining up Palhinha as his replacement at the London Stadium, via the Evening Standard.
If the two holding midfielders do indeed change clubs in the coming weeks, it will only benefit Fabinho’s chances of remaining as a fixed member of Liverpool’s squad next season. Overall, although the Brazilian hasn’t been his usual self for some time, it seems Klopp is willing to stick with him as Rice and Palhinha go in different directions.