It was October 2020. You know, that cursed season when everyone was injured. Fabinho had just picked up a hamstring issue in a Champions League victory for Liverpool FC over FC Midtjylland. Jürgen Klopp was asked after the game about how much of a blow the injury would be for the Selecao:
“I’m not sure if Tite is too worried because he never plays him, so [Fabinho] will probably now not sit on the bench for the next three international games. For us it’s obviously a proper blow, but for now we don’t know.”
Speaking to Brazilian outlet UOL ahead of the World Cup, Fabinho admits he was quite taken aback by Klopp’s response, but appreciated how much the Liverpool boss cares about his players as people:
“After I had already won the position at Liverpool and won important titles, Klopp surprised me with a statement speaking directly to Tite. When I heard it, I thought: ‘Damn it! Strong!’ I was curious how Tite would react, but he was quiet, good. Klopp is older than me, I can’t control what he says! (laughs). He has a very strong name in football and knows the size of his statements. He always cares about his players, the travels, the wear and everything.”
“He’s already talked to me about selection (Brazil call-up). I made it clear that I always wanted to defend Brazil and for the dream of playing in a World Cup. He understands. He said he never played for the national team and that he doesn’t know the feeling, but that he understood me.
“I’ve never played professionally for any Brazilian club, but when I’m asked if I have that frustration, the answer is no. I seized the opportunity that came early for me and made my career in Europe.”
Oh well. Fabinho will likely be on the bench as the five-time World Champions chase a sixth title as Tite has preferred Casemiro over the years to Fabs. But alas. Fabinho also spoke about his move to Liverpool and the transition to the English game:
“I wasn’t at the 2018 World Cup and I know that the change of position made me lose ground in that cycle. I was flying as a midfielder at Monaco and there was already interest from big European clubs but nothing from the national team.
“I knew I needed to take the next step, to fight for more titles to get back on the team’s radar. It was a personal goal. I was already five years in Monaco and had an interest in playing in the Spanish or English league. And then Liverpool came and I already embraced it.”
“They announced the day after the defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League final. It was all right now. I knew I could stay on the bench at the beginning at Liverpool, so I had to take it easy.”
“I did a strengthening job. Contact in the Premier League is different, physical strength is different. I worked on it. I saw that the intensity was too high. This period of adaptation was good for this.
“Of course, it wasn’t cool, I always wanted to be playing. I thought I was ready when I arrived, but they wanted to prepare me more. Pep Lijnders talked to me a lot in the beginning because he speaks Portuguese. I asked for some corrections and to observe the moves of the players. And then, when I had the chance to play, I didn’t leave the team anymore.”
Fabinho and Alisson will take on Serbia in Group G as Brazil kicks off their campaign on Thursday.