Fernandinho surprised Pep Guardiola by revealing he will leave Manchester City this summer and go back to his native Brazil to finish his career.
The City captain, who turns 37 in May, will depart the Etihad Stadium at the end of his contract but had not told his manager when he went public with his decision.
Guardiola nevertheless paid tribute to the midfielder who he called a “true captain” and “an incredible player” for City and said he understood why the veteran wants to get first-team football. He immediately vowed to try to overcome Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night and reach the Champions League semi-finals for Fernandinho.
The Brazilian has made 373 appearances for City since joining from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013, winning four Premier League titles and a record five League Cups, but he has only started six league games this season after Rodri replaced him as the first-choice defensive midfielder.
“I want to play,” Fernandinho said. “I will go back to Brazil. I decided with my family, which is the most important thing for me.”
And Guardiola pledged: “I want the happiness of my players. Absolutely we are going to play for him and give him the best farewell moment, reaching again the semi-finals of the Champions League. I understand the family issues with a wife and kids, go back to Brazil, with the father and mother there. I am pretty sure the club is going to help him do what he wants.”
Guardiola reacted to Fernandinho’s announcement by hoping he can change his mind. “It was a surprise,” he said. “You give me the news, I didn’t hear it. I will say to him: ‘What happened, are you leaving?’ Fernandinho, I said many times, is very important for me. We will see what happens. I will talk to him.”
While Fernandinho has played a lesser part on the pitch this season, he has been hugely influential behind the scenes.