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Auth. n.197 by the Court of Milan on 25th June 2015
Offensive. Gifted with a good build and pace, Matheus Fernandes can adapt his mental and physical skills to various different game situations. Since his first steps with Botafogo, he has been deployed both as a holding and offensive midfielder, also displaying some finishing ability (during the Copinha 2016, he had a hand in many of the matches his team played).
Since his debut in professional football, Fernandes has reduced his range of positions, establishing himself as a midfielder good at keeping the ball and changing pace, even in narrow spaces. His array of offensive skills includes triangulations as well as one-touch and penetrative passing. Although he still has to find the net with the first team, his path through the youth ranks highlighted his ability in set-pieces, attacking raids and long-range shots.
Defensive. Fernandes started playing football thanks to his father Reinaldo’s influence, who would give his son advices on body positioning — as a result of this, the little Matheus got the most out of his first trainings, trying to strike a balance between stability and technique. It was “Coquinho” (as his Botafogo teammates call him) himself who revealed how living in economic hardship actually helped his growth, as he would improve his ball control by dribbling some bricks in a garden nearby his house.
Even without pressing continuously, Fernandes tries to give no rest to his opponents: his positioning and long legs are helpful in this respect, as he can anticipate and cover long distances in a short time. He takes advantage of his height protecting the ball, and he proved able at immediately finding the best positioned teammate once he wins the ball back. Also, he’s always willing to receive the ball to help his side’s possession, and can sit back when the defenders move forward.
In Brazil, the bond with football is something extremely intimate, generally passed from one generation to the next. For Matheus Fernandes football was almost a matter of principle, since he felt responsible for the premature end of his father’s footballing career. By 1998, José Reinaldo had already played in the youth academies of America RJ and Esporte Club Noroeste; he was about to become a professional player when his son Matheus was born. Family first, of course, without forgetting the genetic make-up — this is why Reinaldo immediately tried to introduce his son to football, as the two would play in a pitch in Itaboraí, not far from Rio de Janeiro.
Someone said that Matheus and his father were so nice to look at that several people would join the couple, to the extent that, with the help of local institutions, a football academy was founded, including a female team. Matheus skills, however, were so evident that an improvised pitch was far from enough for the kid — but growing up outside of his family wasn’t so easy.
Fernandes struggled a good deal at Itaboraí Profute, who he joined at the age of 8, Fluminense and Nova Iguaçu. Yet, when he was considering giving up just like his father, a friend told him that Bangu were looking for a “volante”. His spell at the club would only last three games, but there was no failure this time; those few minutes played with Bangu were enough to earn Fernandes a trial at Botafogo. Such move marked the beginning of a new football life for the then-13-year-old, eager to reach professionalism to bring his family away from a dangerous place like Itaboraí.
The player enjoyed a good start with the Rio de Janeiro outfit, making a good impression during the Mundialito, when he also scored against River Plate. However, it was two years later that his progress would become crystal-clear, as he was handpicked by coach Caio Zanardi to play with Brazil U17 in some friendly tournaments in Europe, and reached the Copa do Brasil final, losing at the hands of Vitória.
In 2016, Fernandes won the Campeonato Carioca U20, Taça Guanabara, earned a call-up with the youth Brazil National Team as well as eventually joining the first team on request of coach Ricardo Gomes — the midfielder would undertake a slow apprenticeship, so that he could improve without being crushed by the weight of expectations. This is why Fernandes only made his first team debut the next year in a Campeonato Carioca match, just a few days before making his first Copa Libertadores appearance against Colo Colo. “Play as if you were with your peers, and it will all be ok,” coach Jair Ventura told him, and Fernandes heeded the advice, earning more playing time in the Brasileirão.
Barcelona have already eyed the Brazilian raising star, which is why Botafogo lost no time in adding a lucrative release clause — will it be enough to hinder his move to Europe?
Matheus is extremely family-bound, and he sees his parents as life examples. Inside the pitch, he’d like to follow into Luiz Gustavo’s footsteps, from his style of play to his winning mentality — no surprise that Bernardinho’s biography is his favourite book, telling the story of the most successful volleyball coach. Besides reading, Fernandes loves strolling (he would like to work i n the environmental field as an alternative to football), playing video games, listening to music and watching movies.
MidfielderPro and cons
PROS Determination, tactical balance, anticipation
CONS Coldness, physical strength
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