The act of kicking the ball away to alleviate pressure from the opposition has gained an almost animalistic connotation in England – "hoofing". In Brazil, the term is a little more sophisticated: to "rattle" the ball, meaning to get rid of it carelessly. One might think it could be used to describe how Wigan will look to combat Manchester City at the Etihad on Sunday in their FA Cup quarter-final meeting, given City's domination at home this season. Yet it is actually the first expression that comes to Fernandinho's mind when analysing … Barcelona.
More specifically how City managed to induce Barcelona to do very "Unbarcelonesque" things. "I tell you," says Fernandinho in the very calm storytelling tone he uses to describe basically anything. "We [City] had them [the Catalan side] worried. We managed to put them under pressure and there were situations in which the Barcelona guys didn't feel confident to try to use their passing game. They were rattling the ball to where their noses were pointing. We rattled them."
That, believes the Brazilian, should be one of the images City should not forget for their second rendezvous with Lionel Messi and company. The other is how when even reduced to 10 men they still gave Barcelona a scare or two. "We were good going forward and a bit more luck could have changed that game. Even with that harsh decision to send [Martín] Demichelis off we could have still have left the pitch in a better situation."
But Fernandinho is not concerned with what might have been. He just sees the events at the Etihad as a boost for City's mission improbable at Camp Nou in the Champions League last-16 second leg, even though the midfielder admits that Barça's 2-0 lead looks quite solid. He will stop short of saying that pride could rank higher than anything else in the scale of priorities, though. "Barcelona built a respectable advantage and they are a tough team to beat at home. But we need to try. We might not get out of there with qualification for the next round, but it will be quite important to leave Spain at least with our heads held high."
Fernadinho's rationale is simple. Having failed miserably in their first two Champions League campaigns by crashing out in the group stages, City fared better this season, second only to Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich in the opening round. For the Brazilian it is about taking one step at a time.
"No matter how great a squad is, a competition like the Champions League is not easily won," he explains. "You just have to look at Chelsea for example. So we do have to envisage pushing Barcelona to the limit because this will also give the club the belief that we are getting mileage at this tournament. And a win can help us get into a better pot in next year's draw, to say the least."
Such pragmatism might sound deflating for the more passionate City fans, but it has been crucial for Fernadinho's career. In 2005, when Shakhtar Donetsk approached Atlético Paranaense, the southern Brazilian club where the midfielder got his first break at the top level, he was perfectly aware that he could be trading visibility for a hefty pay cheque in eastern Europe.
Nonetheless, he also saw a possible stepping stone into the main European leagues. After 281 games and 52 goals for the Ukrainians, with the bonus of a Uefa Cup winners' medal in 2009, the chance came with Manchester City. Things were far from smooth, though: owned by the oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, Donetsk had the economic clout to resist a quick sale and could cling on to their top players for higher fees. In Fernandinho's case, this amounted to £30m.
"Shakhtar specifically are proud when traditional clubs from Europe come knocking and I knew it would be quite hard to convince them to let me join City," Fernandinho says. "Listen, I am absolutely thankful for the opportunity they gave me but I also think I worked my socks off for that club and it was time to look after my career."
He worked almost as hard to convince the club to let him go and things would eventually lead to a game of chicken in which Fernandinho made it clear he would not be happy if denied his move to City. While sulking players are as common as ingrowing toenails in dressing rooms, Donetsk were a different case: Fernandinho was a leader among the large Brazilian contingent signed by the club and it did not take a sleuth to deduce what could happen if his discontent was allowed to fester. "In the end we parted ways in good terms and Shakhtar had a nice sending-off for me. I wish them well and I am sure they feel the same."
So for the first time in his career Fernandinho, now 28, is not surrounded by Brazilians. At City, however, he has managed to develop a bond with his fellow South Americans Pablo Zabaleta and Sergio Agüero. "Sergio is one of the funniest guys on the planet. He is a natural guy to tell stories. He often has people in stitches," says Fernandinho.
On the pitch, though, his time is dedicated to his "twin". Although they do not hang around a lot, Fernandinho and Yaya Touré have clicked where it matters. "The moment I heard of City's interest I started watching every game of theirs I could. And it was pretty clear Yaya was a very important cog in the machine," he says. Like the Ivorian, Fernandinho likes to venture forward and he reminded the world last Wednesday by scoring a belter in Brazil's 5-0 friendly win over South Africa – it was his first game for Brazil in two years.
"Yaya and I from the start had to talk a lot to work out our roles. These days we kind of just play it by ear. We know where each other is going to be." He reckons the Ivorian will be particularly psyched for his return to Camp Nou. "It will be a special match for Yaya but he never made a big deal out of it. He moved on to a new challenge, just like all of us who joined City. We have something special going on here and the players know it."
After hitting the ground running in his first season in England, there is only one thing Fernandinho regrets and it is the loss of his relative anonymity. When he joined City last season he moved into a hotel near Macclesfield and once decided to have dinner in town – just as a load of Manchester United supporters were walking around after the Community Shield game against Chelsea, which City won 3-2. Not a single one recognised City's new signing. "Nobody even flinched and only the waitress at the restaurant my family and I went to knew who I was. Thankfully she was a City supporter."
After what City have done this season, including that 4-1 drubbing of David Moyes's team, it is unlikely the Brazilian could now remain incognito.