Fabinho has deputized brilliantly at centre-back in Virgil Van Dijk’s absence, displaying leadership qualities that have softened the blow of losing the world’s best defender for a whole season. But the 27-year old holding midfielder’s alternate avatar as a defender at Liverpool has been a couple of years in the making - since 2018 to be precise.
“Back then the coach saw the need for someone to be available so I started working on that position, getting used to it, working with potential partners,’ Fabinho said, speaking to the Daily Mail.
“We had three centre backs at the time so it was all just a test for me, just to be prepared. The coach had identified that there could be a need further down the line.
“So when I came in I felt good and comfortable and over time it’s got easier. When Virgil got injured I expected to come in as centre-back and even the other players were joking. They were saying: ‘Fabinho the defender is back, he is here’.
“Yes I was nervous at first but I think I have grown in to it.”
He still considers Van Dijk to be the best defender in the world however. “Virgil is the one player you don’t want or expect to be injured,” he said.
“Last season he played in all 38 league games. He is never tired, never injured and the one you can always rely on. He really is the leader and when you lose someone of those qualities it’s a great shock.
“We were just shaking our heads at the time and didn’t want to admit it was true. I remembering hearing the news reports and hoping they were false.
“Immediately after his injury he didn’t say too much but after a few games he sent me a message congratulating me and saying I was playing well. That was great to hear. Now I just want to be able to watch his game and pick up things I should be doing, particularly the passes he makes. I would like to do that.
“He is the best in his position so it’s important that I look to his game. He makes a real difference to the day to day in the dressing room and of course he will get his position straight back from me. I don’t know what the coach will do but I am sure Virgil will go straight in to the defence and I will go in to midfield.
“I hope that’s as soon as possible.”
He also spoke about how important this season could be if Liverpool managed to bag a second title in a consecutive year.
“Yes this team will be remembered for how well we play, the quality of our football and for winning the title,” Fabinho said.
“But to fight for the second one would put us further in to football history. It would put us up there with teams in the Premier League that have won back to back titles. Teams like Manchester City. It would put us on the higher level and put us with the best teams in the history of the league.
“Taking in to account everything that has happened this year, the difficulties of no fans in the stadiums and the busy run of fixtures and injuries we have had, it all adds to making the second title more special than the first one if we could do it.
“It would show that we have this constant desire at the club to be winners.”