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Fabinho’s first season in Europe was spent playing for Real Madrid’s star-studded reserves

Fabinho spent a season in Real Madrid's Castilla side after leaving Brazilian giants Fluminense in 2012

When Fabinho navigates his way down the River Mersey and arrives in Liverpool it’ll be the latest stop in a far from straightforward journey.

There’s been positional uncertainty. The 24-year-old, who has been signed by Jurgen Klopp to anchor Liverpool’s midfield, started life as a lanky right-back.

There’s also been uncertainty around where exactly he calls home.


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Fabinho graduated through Fluminense’s academy, the same production line off which Marcelo rolled, presumably while doing kick ups.

He sat on the bench to watch Fluminense beat Corinthians 1-0 on 20 May 2012 in front of 15,000 people at the Estadio do Pacaembu.

Also playing that day were Marquinhos, who’ll be starting for Brazil at the World Cup, and West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini, part of Argentina’s tournament squad.

But that was the closest Fabinho got to making his Fluminense debut.

The best coloured kit in football?

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The best coloured kit in football?

Less than a month later he was on his way to Portuguese top flight side Rio Ave, having signed a six-year deal.

While they might not be a traditional European giant, Rio Ave have provided a platform for youngsters to learn their trade before going on to bigger and better things.

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak signed for Rio Ave on loan at the same time Fabinho arrived, while Christian Atsu, who spent the previous season at the Portuguese side, went on to join Chelsea in 2013.

But, no sooner had Fabinho put down his bags than there was another plane to catch, and another bunch of team-mates to get familiar with.

Apologies for the photo quality but people still used flip phones back in 2012

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Apologies for the photo quality but people still used flip phones back in 2012

The destination this time? Real Madrid. Real Madrid’s Castilla side, to be exact.

Fabinho joined Real Madrid’s reserve side, who were competing in the second tier of Spanish football, on a season-long loan.

He had a more important role in Madrid’s future than he realised at the time.

Three of the Madrid squad that lifted a third successive Champions League trophy- Nacho, Casemiro and Lucas Vazquez- were Fabinho’s team-mates during the 2012/13 campaign.

Other notable names included Alvaro Morata, Jese, Denis Cheryshev and Diego Llorente, all of whom would go on to appear for Madrid’s first-team with varying degrees of success.

Familiar faces

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Familiar faces

Fabinho played 30 times as Madrid finished eighth in the Segunda Division, narrowly missing out on the play-offs but knocking arch-rivals Barcelona B into ninth place.

That was no mean feat given Barcelona B counted Rafinha, Sergi Roberto, Luis Alberto and Gerard Deulofeu amongst their ranks.

Even if Castilla had managed to clinch promotion they would have been denied, given Spanish rules ban reserve sides competing in the same division as their first-teams.

Proper one man and his dog vibes

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Proper one man and his dog vibes

A respectable finish in the Segunda Division wasn’t the highlight of Fabinho’s season, however.

On 8 May 2013, less than a year after sitting on the bench for Fluminense, Fabinho made his first-team debut for Madrid at the Bernabeu, coming on for Fabio Coentrao during a 6-2 win against Malaga.

He didn’t just make up the numbers, either, setting up Angel Di Maria to score Madrid’s sixth goal.

As had been the way in Fabinho’s fledgling career, the end of a campaign meant another move.

This time the destination was Monaco. Again his arrival went under the radar.

Unsurprising, really, given he turned up in the Principality at the same time as James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao, Ricardo Carvalho, Eric Abidal, Jeremy Toulalan, Joao Moutinho and Anthony Martial.

But it didn’t take long for Fabinho to make his mark. Initially it was at right-back, playing 26 times as Monaco missed out on the Ligue 1 title to PSG by nine points.

Three years later he had been transformed into a mobile defensive midfielder to help Monaco get revenge and clinch the title by an eight-point margin over PSG.

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That’ll be the role he’s asked to perform in Klopp’s heavy metal band next season, with the prospect of a partnership with fellow new arrival Naby Keita already inspiring thoughts of Premier League titles amongst Liverpool fans.

He’ll have a summer to rest, after Tite decided against bringing the four-cap Brazil international to Russia.

While resting, you wouldn’t begrudge him a quick reflection on how far he’s come. From Real Madrid reserve to £39million-signing in just five years.

And there’s still plenty more of the story to come.


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