Barely 48 hours after Liverpool’s Champions League final loss to Real Madrid, the Reds had set about their summer strengthening by landing Fabinho.
The Monaco midfielder, 24, has put pen-to-paper on a £45million switch to join the Merseysiders, as they waste little time in adding to their squad ahead of a Premier League title push next term.
The Reds have already acquired RB Leipzig star Naby Keita and are set to continue their quest to add more firepower – with Nabil Fekir at the top of their wishlist – and a new goalkeeper this summer.
But Jurgen Klopp had prioritised the signing of a powerful midfield anchorman and returned for Fabinho, a player he had courted unsuccessfully 12 months ago.
Liverpool made their first approach for the Brazilian in 2017, after the converted full-back had shone during Monaco’s Ligue 1 triumph and surprise run to the semi-finals of Europe’s premier club competition.
Fabinho’s displays at the heart of midfield, dovetailing with Tiemoue Bakayoko, allowed the likes of Bernardo Silva, Thomas Lemar and Kylian Mbappe to shine.
But while a number of his teammates departed as Monaco raked in record profits – Bakayoko joined Chelsea for £40million, Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy both moved to Manchester City and Mbappe switched to Paris Saint-Germain – Fabinho remained at the Stade Louis II.
Certainly it wasn’t due to lack of interest; as well as Liverpool the likes of Inter Milan, Manchester United, Manchester City and PSG all looked to take him from the Principality. However, having sold a number of key players, Monaco chiefs – including vice president Vadim Vasilyev and coach Leonardo Jardim – determined that they would keep both he and Thomas Lemar, aware that some continuity was needed.
But Klopp has previous when it comes to only wanting his No.1 target.
He was willing to wait for Keita when RB Leipzig declared they had no intention to sell ahead of their debut European campaign and also held on for Virgil van Dijk when relations soured between the Reds and Southampton last summer – waiting until January to land the Dutchman in a £75million deal. (Ironically, the one time Klopp missed out on his No.1 target and moved for his secondary was when he couldn’t land Julian Brandt and thus moved on Mo Salah).
As such, he kept tabs on Fabinho throughout the 2017-18 season, aware Monaco wouldn’t part with him in January and elected to bide his time.
Monaco failed to repeat the heroics of 2016-17, exiting the Champions League at the group stage, but still finished best of the rest in Ligue 1 and reached a domestic cup final. Fabinho remained a steady presence in midfield, making 45 appearances and making more passes, winning more tackles and more aerial duels than anyone else for the Principality club across the campaign.
Crucially for those at Monaco, he didn’t ‘down tools’ having not got his big-money move, but rather played his part in helping Monaco’s next wave of imported youngsters to settle as they sought to replace his former teammates, something which has drawn praise from Monaco’s vice president.
"I want to salute a player who, despite his young age, has set an example on and off the field thanks to his exceptional technical and human qualities," Vasilyev said. "He leaves for one of the most popular clubs in the world, five years after arriving on his tiptoes in Monaco.
"I’m proud of his progression, which confirms, once more, the knowhow Monaco have in progressing young talent in world football."
Mirror Sport understands that that behavioural aspect persuaded Klopp and the club’s transfer committee to make a concerted effort to press ahead with a move weeks ago, working quietly in the background but being decisive, while others were perhaps whittling down their shortlists.
Klopp himself made a concerted effort to meet with the player and sell Anfield to him, persuading him how he could develop on Merseyside and where he saw him fitting in his side. That interaction and the clarity of Klopp’s ideas saw Fabinho phase out interest from elsewhere and focus only on a move to Anfield.
"It’s been a few weeks [since Liverpool first got in touch]," said Fabinho. "I spoke with people from the club, with the coach (Klopp), which gave me a lot of confidence.
"I wanted to go to a club that really wanted me, which showed great interest. With all that, it was easy to say yes. I thought a little and told my agent that he could continue the transaction. I am very happy that it is done from the beginning of the transfer window."
For Klopp the move is critical, and not only because Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out until November due to injury and Emre Can is set to depart for Juventus on a free transfer.
The final in Kiev only furthered what the Premier League campaign had shown: Liverpool’s starting 11 is a match for anyone, but beyond that there is a drop in quality. Fabinho’s arrival isn’t just an addition of depth, but an insertion of further quality.
“We have signed a fantastic player, but someone who is an equally fantastic person I think,” Klopp told Liverpool’s official website. “His reputation as a character in the dressing room and his attitude in training has come through from everyone we speak to.
“He has a lovely family also – adding a person like this to our dressing room only makes us even stronger. What we have – in terms of our environment at Melwood and in the team – means anyone coming in must be of that build. They must be the highest quality person and player.
"This signing gives us new opportunities and for that I am excited. I’m sure our supporters will make him very welcome and at home at our wonderful club and in our amazing city.”
Fabinho was also encouraged to switch to Anfield by Roberto Firmino, despite interest from elsewhere.
"I spoke by phone with Firmino," he said. "I know him personally, I have been in the Brazil squad with him. I was able to know a but more about Liverpool through him.
"I had two [other] choices. Real choices, not just interests. [But] I do not want to talk about other clubs. It’s done, I’m a Liverpool player."
The Reds have quickly put the heartbreak of Kiev in the past and are already making forward strides ahead of next season as they look to hunt down Manchester City and land a first piece of silverware since 2012.
The positivity and feel-good factor that has surrounded the club recently has been immediately returned.
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