Wednesday 2nd May 2018

FERNANDINHO’S time at Manchester City has brought him countless riches, Premier League winners medals and cult-hero status in the blue half of the city.

But the most important thing of all to the 32-year-old has been the way it has reinvigorated his international career.

And with the 2018 World Cup in Russia just around the corner, the Brazilian is desperate to translate his magnificent club form with Pep Guardiola’s world beaters into Seleção success this summer.

The midfielder had won just five caps for his country before moving to England from Shakhtar Donetsk back in 2013 – but now he has become a mainstay of Tite’s side that will head to Russia as one of the tournament favourites.

“The English league itself is very strong physically, very demanding,” he said.

“All matches have few fouls, which made me adapt really well to playing on the English league.

“And I’m very happy for it, because it’s already been 5 years and I’ve managed to keep playing for Manchester City regularly, so I’m very happy – playing a lot and winning titles. So all of it allowed me to reach my goal, which is to play for the Brazilian National Team.

“Being on the Brazilian National Team is a huge pleasure. I think it’s a huge pride. It’s that childhood dream we all talk about.

“When you’re a child, you watch the Brazilian Team on TV and feel that desire to be a National Team player, so when you get here you make a dream come true, and it’s a huge honour to me and to every player who wears Brazil’s shirt.”

Brazil take on Croatia at the start of June at Anfield in a pre-tournament warm-up clash.

Fernandinho knows the stadium all too well after Premier League and Champions League defeats there this season against Liverpool.

But the Brazilian – who now has 41 caps for his country – cannot wait to return there and get the Samba party started on Merseyside.

He added: “It’ll be nice, I think it’ll be very interesting. And I hope the Brazilian fans are able to come to support us, because the National Team brings many fans to the stadium everywhere it goes, and I hope that won’t be different in England.

“It’s a place we know really well and somewhere are used to playing, so I think it’ll be a very beautiful show.”

While Neymar continues his fitness race to recover in time for the tournament this summer, Brazil are blessed with plenty of other attacking riches.

Not least Fernandinho’s City teammate Gabriel Jesus and former Liverpool, now Barca, star Philippe Coutinho.

But the key to Brazil’s cruise through qualification for the tournament has undoubtedly been the manager – Tite – who took over in 2016 after Dunga’s failed second spell and led them to Russia with ease.

“Look, personally, I can say that I’ve changed a lot as a player since the last World Cup, both in my club and with the National Team,” he added.

“I’ve managed to improve a lot in terms of my football, so I think I’m a very different player to 4 years ago.

“And there is no doubt that the National Team itself is very different; with new players, with a different technical team, with a different game style and game patterns. So, we’ve all changed and I believe the results will show that we have changed for the best.

“The Seleção is always treated as favourite, so we players know our responsibility and the goal is always to enter every competition to win, and the World Cup is no different.

“And I think our preparation has been extremely well executed by the Technical Team and by all the players, and our hope is to get to Russia’s World Cup final.”

Brazil take on Croatia in a FIFA World Cup warm-up at Anfield on Saturday, 3 June (KO 3pm). Tickets from £30 Adults/£10 Under-16s are on sale