Manchester United or Manchester City? Where is Fred headed?
Brazilian central midfielder is the flavour of the month at the moment. But where is he heading in the summer?
When it comes to football, Brazilians find Ukraine, or to be more specific, Shakhtar Donetsk, a second home.
To the outsider, it may seem strange that a club out of the established big leagues would have to such a rich Brazilian pedigree in the past decade or so. But when multimillionaire Rinat Akhmetov took over in 2004, he wished for his new club to be able to play attractive football. To that end, he appointed Portuguese-speaking Mircea Lucescu as manager.
Now, three of the top six goalscorers at the club, including the highest, are Brazilian. Fernandinho, Douglas Costa and Willian are just three players to have spent their formative years in Ukraine before making a big move elsewhere.
The civil war makes it tougher for the club to continue this strategy, but they still have eight on board, including Marlos, now a naturalised Ukranian.
Out of the group, there is one player that is set for a big move elsewhere, in all likeliness to the Premier League. And like Fernandinho, he may well choose Manchester. Meet Fred, the headline-grabbing midfielder set to be the next big-bucks Brazilian departure from Donetsk.
Right, said Fred
After joining Shakhtar from Internacional in 2013, Fred’s growth has been gradual at the club, slowly emerging into the strong box-to-box midfielder he is today.
He had started off as a left-back when in Atletico Mineiro’s youth side but, at Internacional, he was pushed further up his wing and eventually into midfield. A brace on debut in a 3-1 win over Chornomorets Odesa in the Ukrainian Super Cup did his chances no harm.
Fred’s rise is in sync with his peers who took their time to develop in a conducive environment and then move to a bigger European team when the time calls for it.
He has had his share of hurdles to cross so far, the first being his refusal to return to Donetsk during the Ukrainian crisis in 2014, a fully understandable sentiment.
The second was much more disruptive. When Dunga, once his coach at Internacional, called him up for the 2015 Copa America squad on account of his starting position in Shakhtar, it was offset by doping charges.
Fred had tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide and was initially suspended for a year, backdated to the tournament.
Given he had already played half of the season, he spent a couple of months suspended towards the end of the season in 2016, and the same period in 2017, training alone back in Brazil.
The Brazilian’s return to Shakhtar, under new manager Paulo Fonseca, has been nothing sort of resurgent.
Seemingly possessing an urge to make up for lost time, his playmaking skills have come to the fore: he’s unpredictable and wonderful on the ball with both feet, even though he is naturally left-footed.
His role has changed drastically under Fonseca, who sees him as the conductor of the side, playing both defensively and offensively in a box-to-box role. He is not a true destroyer, but more of a technical force.
His versatility in playing across the midfield is something that would also appeal to prospective suitors. Fred is still a raw gem, especially in his defensive game, and the lack of exposure to regular competitive and intense play would be a reason to blood him slowly.
That he is capable of adapting is no question: he played all eight Champions League games this season, impressive Pep Guardiola in the Manchester City clashes, while scoring a stunning free-kick versus Roma in the last 16.
Guardiola’s impression has made City a prime candidate for his signature, given the similarities to Fernandinho, whom Fred had also replaced at Shakhtar.
At City, opportunities would be more scarce at first given the competition, which would not be a bad thing entirely.
At Manchester United, by comparison, the lack of a settled midfield core would allow Fred the chance to audition for the role. They lack a left-footed midfielder with Fred’s skills but he could also interfere with Paul Pogba positionally.
The future is bright
There is no clear cut opening for Fred in the Manchester clubs, but they remain the most likely destinations.
Where he does end up will be a question for the summer, but there is no doubt that he could be useful at either club, or at any other big club.
Midfielders of Fred’s style are becoming a rare commodity, which makes me a valuable asset. He is by no means the finished product, but with time he could well be.
Fred’s a potential star in the making, if honed properly, and so a choice awaits in the summer, for him as well as prospective suitors. It could be the making of his career.
Who do you think should sign Fred? Let us know by commenting below.