Exclusive: Steve McManaman on Fabinho & Virgil van Dijk's Liverpool absence

Fabinho Liverpool

GIVEMESPORT spoke exclusively to Steve McManaman ahead of Liverpool's Champions League showdown with Real Madrid on Wednesday evening. 

McManaman enjoyed the two most fruitful spells of his career with the Champions League quarter-finalists, and knows more than most about the expectations and demands of two of world football's most widely revered institutions.  

Sitting in BT Sports Studio's in the heart of east London, McManaman was in typically chipper mood and discussed a range of subjects from Jude Bellingham and Jadon Sancho's England credentials to Claude Makelele's importance to Real Madrid during his four-year stay in the Spanish capital.

Having broadly discussed the importance of often underrated holding midfielders, McManaman spoke about the knock-on effect Virgil van Dijk's injury had on Fabinho. 

The Brazil international has blossomed into a key lynchpin in Jurgen Klopp's side since signing from AS Monaco in 2018. His metronomic ball-playing ability has served as a beating heart in Liverpool's midfield, while his ability to snuff out danger has provided the back-four with an almost indomitable shield. 

But, prior to the arrival of Ozan Kabak, injuries to van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip have forced Fabinho into unfamiliar territory at centre-back, which McManaman believes has had an adverse effect on Liverpool's results. 

When asked whether Fabinho's move into centre-back had been problematic for Liverpool, McManaman said that he'd been a huge miss in the midfield. 

"Huge, huge. Look, we all know what Liverpool's problems were this year, they were missing two centre defenders.

"But when you're missing two centre midfielders as well because they've gone back to playing centre defence in Fabinho and Henderson you're almost just papering over the cracks."

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And McManaman was keen to point out that holding midfielders, though typically underrated and underappreciated by fans and pundits alike, are starting to get the credit their talents deserve.

"I think Fabinho's a brilliant player. Fernandinho has been excellent at Manchester City. N'Golo Kante, of course, we've spoken about him in the past and how good he is. Then there's Declan Rice. They're all starting to get names for themselves - that type of player."

If Fabinho's brilliance in Liverpool's anchor role hadn't already been recognised, then the pattern of the 2020/21 season has certainly illuminated just how integral he is to the mechanics of Klopp's system. 

Watch the UEFA Champions League exclusively live on BT Sport, with coverage of Liverpool v Real Madrid from 7:00pm on BT Sport 2 this Wednesday. For more info go to btsport.com/football

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