Andre Trindade: Is the Fluminense star ready to replace Fabinho?

After five years, Liverpool are moving on.

Fabinho is heading off to pastures new after a £40m bid from Al-Ittihad was accepted as Jurgen Klopp’s side flew off to Germany for their first pre-season stop.

The Brazilian has been a constant at the base of Liverpool’s midfield since he arrived from Monaco in 2018. Yet last season was one of decline for Fabinho, and a lucrative bid from Saudi Arabia was just too good an offer to turn down for the club. While getting what is an inflated price due to the Saudi Pro League’s aggressive approach to getting talent this summer is all well and good, losing El Flaco (as he’s affectionately known) leaves a huge gap as the anchor of the Liverpool midfield.

READ MORE: Fabinho — The rise and decline of Liverpool's quiet superstar

The club are now in a precarious position, without a natural ‘defensive midfielder’ in the squad (Stefan Bajčetić is 18 and is probably more of an eight than a six currently) with just under a month to go before the start of the Premier League season. There has been a lot of names linked since the news of Fabinho’s departure – most notably Southampton’s Roméo Lavia.

One interesting name that has been linked is Fluminense’s André Trindade da Costa Neto – simply known as André.

South America is a market that has increasingly been used by Premier League clubs in recent years. Julián Álvarez moved from River Plate to Manchester City, Danilo from Palmeiras to Nottingham Forest and even Liverpool’s own Alexis Mac Allister from Argentinos Juniors (via a loan spell at Boca Juniors) to Brighton in recent years. It is – however – not a market that Liverpool regularly utilise. The last player signed from the continent for the first team was Sebastián Coates from Uruguayan side Nacional in 2011.

André is a (recently turned) 22-year-old hailing from Bahia, in the North-West of Brazil. He’s spent his entire professional career at Rio de Janeiro based giants Fluminense – the city’s oldest football club. He’s been strongly linked with a move to Fulham this summer, as backup to another rumoured Liverpool target in João Palhinha. However, there have been links to Anfield, and many that watch him believe he’s a good outside-the-box option.

I’ve looked at why he might be:

Positioning and Level of Competition

First off, let’s look at the level of competition he is playing in. According to ESPN’s Soccer Power Index, the Brasileiro is the seventh best league in world football, ranking just behind the Eredivisie but ahead of the Portuguese league.

This isn’t a perfect science, and it can differ from source to source. For example, if we use Opta’s Power Rankings – which looks at clubs rather than leagues – then we can see Fluminense rank 191, slightly ahead of teams such as newly promoted Sheffield United. What we can say for certain though, is that André has played at the highest level of football in South America, as Fluminense currently sit fifth in the league and have progressed to the knockouts of the Copa Libertadores (South America’s Champions League equivalent). He also made his debut for Brazil in March of this year, coming off the bench in a defeat against Senegal – and considering how talented a pool Ramon Menezes had at his disposal, that is quite a compliment.

Positionally the Brazilian is something of an intriguing case, due to the coach he plays for – Fernando Diniz. He’s a manager that likes to play what has been described as "positionless" football, creating a fluid environment that requires his players to be comfortable in numerous areas of the pitch. With that being said, André is often based on the left-hand side of a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1, at the base of midfield. Throughout his career he has predominantly played as a defensive midfielder, with 98 appearances in the position. He can play further up as an eight, and even started the recent derby with Flamengo on the right-hand side of a midfield five. André is different to the mould of Fabinho though, in the sense that while Fabinho tends to anchor, the twenty-year-old covers an awful lot of ground. Here is his heat-map for the current league season (via SofaScore):

credit: Sofascore

Strengths

The Brazilian thrives at a lot of the things you want a defensive midfielder to be good at. Off the ball he is excellent in his recoveries, as shown in this excellent visual by @pranav_m28 of his recoveries in the 2022 season (I’d recommend checking out his full thread on André):

He’s able to do this through his aggressive nature – which can also be his downfall – he is not afraid to get "stuck in" to challenges and win the ball back by any means necessary. He’s also a smart tackler, while he doesn’t attempt a lot of them (2.05 per 90), he does tend to win the ball back when doing so (1.75 per 90). What really stands out though, when watching André is his ability to read the game. He is consistently able to get himself into positions where he can make interceptions. This is backed up in the data, he ranks in the 69th percentile for interceptions with 1.31 per ninety, and while that may not seem overly high there is context here – he plays for one of the better sides in Brazil, in a team ranks second highest in possession stats in Brazil.

On the ball, André is excellent – even if it aesthetically looks a bit rough around the edges. If we look at his passing stats from FBRef below:

credit: fbref

He is a high-volume passer, but also an extremely adept one. What’s particularly impressive is the variation in his passing game. He’s able to dictate the tempo with short and medium range passing, as Fluminense look to suffocate their opposition. Then there’s his long, sweeping passes. While he doesn’t attempt them more often than your average midfielder (as can be seen above, ranking in the 45th percentile), he is extremely accurate. His technique isn’t overly clean looking but it’s ridiculously effective. This tool makes him extremely valuable in beating pressure and starting counter attacks – something Liverpool look to utilise often.

He isn’t overly progressive in his passing, and is more of a metronome in this sense, but is extremely progressive in his carrying of the ball – ranking in the 99th percentile for progressive carrying distance (179.27 yards per ninety) as he bulldozes his way through opposition midfields.

Weaknesses & Concerns

© Proshots - Andre Trindade

There are two clear weaknesses in André’s game. The first of these is his aerial ability, ranking in the bottom two percent for aerials won (0.18 per ninety). His five-foot-nine frame does give him a disadvantage in this area, and this would be a big altering of styles for Liverpool, with Fabinho winning 1.09 aerial duels per ninety. The second area is his discipline. In his short career so far, André has been sent off once in each of the last two seasons, alongside accumulating 22 yellows in the space of just under 70 full 90’s.

While those two things are a concern – particularly the aerial ability – the biggest concern would be how his game scales up from Brazil’s top division to life at the top end of the Premier League. While he is used to possession dominant football, the space, level of opposition and expectation is a huge step up. André presents something of a high-risk high-reward opportunity for Liverpool, particularly given the circumstances. With Fabinho departing, Liverpool are in need of a defensive midfielder to come in and get a lot of minutes immediately. With a little over three weeks until Chelsea away, there would be no time for André to adjust to the nuances of English football.

I’m not against Liverpool bringing André in, the more I watch the more I like, and South America is a market that the club do need to utilise more. There is a risk that the Brazilian is snapped up by Fulham in the coming weeks, and we’re back here in a year’s time looking at a midfielder who has tripled in price.

However, with the situation the club have been put in this summer, with someone that was ever-present in the side needing replaced, I expect them to be a bit more cautious with their targets – and I think that’s an okay decision to make.

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