A Dubai break helped Fernandinho recharge and rev up for a performance that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola described as “extraordinary”.
Now the Brazilian midfielder believes both he and his team can get even better under the new “special” one.
Fernandinho’s curling strike topped off a fine display in the 5-0 win over Burnley on Saturday that helped keep the champions top of the Premier League and unbeaten after nine games.
They now face his former club Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League tonight and the 33-year-old, who has not played for his country since the World Cup, says he feels fitter than ever.
“Yes, I don’t know [why],” he added. “When you are out of international duty you can forget just a little bit about football, spend more time with your family and clean your mind and your body. I think it helps a lot.
“I had a rest last week. I’ve been in Dubai for a week. I have had enough time to rest. I am happy because it’s good to be important especially in a [City] team like this with a lot of good and important players and we just need to go for it, to improve and get better all the time.
“It’s good to hear something like this (being extraordinary) about you, especially when it comes from Pep. He’s a special guy, a special manager and I’m so pleased for that especially after my performance.”
Fernandinho, who joined City from Shakhtar for £30 million in 2013, has been labelled a “key player” by Guardiola, who has had to start him more regularly having failed to sign Jorginho to provide more defensive midfield strength.
But the player does not think he is in the best form of his career.
“Not so far, not yet,” he said. “It was good [against Burnley], but I want to improve more, improve some details and get better to help the team.
“Maybe [this squad is stronger than last season]. We have conceded less goals I think and that’s a good point we have to take. And when we have the chance to play, especially at home, we create a lot of chances to score goals.
“It’s good because we have so many good players up front. The competition between them is good and good for the team.
“I hope that we can improve more now because we cannot stop. We have a long season ahead and I think from now until the end we have to improve and get better and better. Otherwise, there’s no point playing for City.”
Fernandinho will relish a return to Shakhtar, a club where he won six league titles and the UEFA Cup during an eight-year spell.
A point behind Lyon in Group F, having lost to the French side at home, City need victory to stay ahead of the Ukrainian champions.
Fernandinho added: “The next two games against them is going to be decisive to see who goes through to the next stage. They are going to be key games for us.
“They have a good team, good players and we have to be careful and try to play the same way we are playing now. Of course it’s a different competition, a different way to play from Burnley to Shakhtar. But we have to do what we have to do out on the pitch and try to win that game because it’s going to be very difficult.”
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