Never Walk Alone

Sam Robles/The Players' Tribune

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I want to explain what it’s really like to play for Liverpool. But I have to confess something. On my first experience of a Premier League game, I barely saw any of the actual match.

We beat West Ham 4–0 at Anfield in August of the 2018-19 season. I was on the bench and it felt like I spent the entire 90 minutes just watching the fans.

Before I came to England, I used to watch the Premier League on TV and I thought I knew a bit about those special atmospheres — especially at Anfield. When I arrived, I expected to hear “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and for the fans to sing songs and insult the ref. I loved all that.

But nothing prepares you for what it’s like live. How every single action on the pitch gets a reaction in the stands. 

So, after every tackle, every pressure, every possible foul, I was turning around and paying attention as the fans were going crazy. Man, I was fascinated. I was just admiring them. That noise, that passion. I’d never seen anything like it.

The fans are part of the team. They inform how we play. “Heavy metal football” doesn’t work without them. They are the ones pushing us into every move. They never let us stop. Even in those moments when the ball is stuck in midfield and it seems like nothing is going right, when we hear them … it’s like someone is shouting “Go, go, go!!!” in your ear. 

And for me, in my position, it’s great because when we win a challenge, they celebrate like it’s a goal!

The fans are a big part of why I love Liverpool, and we’ve achieved incredible things together.

Coming here was the best thing that could have happened to my career. There was a time when I never could have imagined I would get here.

I think a lot of people find it strange how I never played professionally in Brazil and suddenly ended up at Real Madrid, like I skipped a step or was some real wonderkid, but it wasn’t like that. I never expected success at a young age. 

Back when I was in the Under-20 team at Fluminense, I didn’t know if I’d ever be promoted to the first team. To be completely honest with you, I didn’t really have the belief that I would ever make it to the top top level. 

Listen, I knew I was good, but I was a realist. I remember one day, I must’ve been 18, the club brought in a psychologist who asked us, “What is your main goal as a footballer?”

Coming here was the best thing that could have happened to my career. There was a time when I never could have imagined I would get here.


I thought about it and said that I wanted to have financial security for my family.

He told me, “OK, in order to do that there are two paths. Do you think you can achieve that by becoming a top-level player, or by going wherever you can find work to support your family?”

I chose the second option, and I meant it. That’s the reality for so many footballers — especially in Brazil. Football is a job. The dream isn’t the Champions League, it’s to make a living.

Don’t get me wrong, of course, football was also always fun.

Pretty much my first memories in life are of me — wearing a São Paulo FC shirt and no shoes — playing football out at the back of our building in my city, Campinas.

There was no pitch and we had no goalposts either but it didn’t matter. The garage door? That’s one goal. Between the tree and the wall? That’s the other. If we were short on players, we would make our friends’ sisters come down and make up the numbers.

Those times were really cool. But as I grew up, things progressed and I saw the possibility of a career. The reality changes, right?  

I remember the only time I got called up for a first team game at Fluminense. It was the Campeonato Brasileiro against Corinthians. When I went into the changing room before, the kit man gave me my shirt: FABINHO 38.

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By the way — I have Fluminense to thank for my name. In the Under 20s there were two Fabios. Me and Fabio Braga. So one day our coach, Marcelo Veiga, says, “Every time I call Fabio, you both look round, so from now on you are Fabinho!” And that was it. From that moment on, I became Fabinho!

When I saw that first shirt with my name and number printed on it, I was like – woah, this is crazy. To me, it didn’t matter if I got on the pitch or not. At that moment, I was a professional footballer. No one could take it away from me.

In the end, I stayed on the bench for the entire game, but if you watch the highlights back on YouTube, the camera pans across the bench and catches me celebrating our goal — that’s my whole Fluminense first-team career right there in that one second haha!

Around that time when I was unsure if I’d ever make it at Fluminense, there was talk that a second division team in the Sao Paulo state championship were interested in me. Honestly, if the proposal had come in, I would have taken it. It didn’t matter if it was a big step down, I just knew I couldn’t miss any opportunity.

Maybe that helps you understand why when this offer from Portugal came up, I didn’t think twice.

It’s funny, everything happened so fast. I went away for the first time with the Brazil Under 20s for a tournament in South Africa. We played really well and there were a lot of clubs watching us.

When we came back, I went home to Campinas for a few days and the president of my childhood club came to welcome me and said, “Fabinho, you’ve been transferred!”

I was like, “What?? Nobody told me anything.…”

He told me, “Yes, Fluminense received two offers from Rio Ave in Portugal and they accepted the last one … But they say you can stay if you want.”

And that was it. I was like, “No, no, let’s go!” 

He took me to tell my family. My mother got very emotional, crying a lot. I went to say goodbye to my teammates at Fluminense and then I packed a suitcase.

I was so nervous. I didn’t know anything. I was just 18 years old, travelling to Europe for the first time. Fortunately, I was able to talk to Deco – who was at Fluminense at the time – and he told me what to expect in Portugal. 

When we got there the manager, Nuno Espirito Santo, greeted us with kindness. I got an apartment by myself, I did the preseason and then everything changed again.

Around 20 days after arriving in Portugal, my agent knocked on my door and said, “Pack your stuff and come with me.”

He didn’t even tell me where we were going at first. I was like, “OK.…” hahaha!

Once we were in his car he said, “Look, there is this offer … I know you’ve just arrived here, but you don’t want to refuse this, man. It’s Real Madrid. They want you to come play in their B team.”

Then he gave me his phone to call my mom. She cried again and this time I cried too. I couldn’t believe it. In one month, I’d gone from having serious doubts about my future at Fluminense to signing for Real Madrid. That’s unbelievable. In those moments, you feel the hand of God helping you.

Angel Martinez/Real Madrid/Getty Images

That night I went to my hotel room in Madrid and I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited. Man, I remember it was so hot and I didn’t know how to work the air conditioning. I just lay there in my underwear.

Early the next morning, I heard someone knocking on my door. I was still groggy and when I looked through the peephole and saw José Mourinho standing there with my agent, I couldn’t believe it. What the Jose Mourinho is outside my hotel room????

I was so shocked I didn’t even think to put on any trousers. Mourinho just comes in and starts telling me how happy he was to have me at Real Madrid, what position he needs me to play, explaining that I would maybe go on preseason with the first team before joining up with the B team.

Then he just looks at me in my underwear and says, “It’s really hot in here, huh?”

And I’m like, “Yes. Yes it is.”


With Madrid, I was playing for Castilla but would often train with the first team. It was such a step up. I’d come from nowhere and suddenly I was with some of the best players on the planet. Guys like Ronaldo, Di Maria and Higuain – they just never seemed to miss! I was also especially impressed by Lass Diarra. He could find space between the lines so easily.

Being around professionals like that you think, Damn, these guys are different level. I learned a lot.

It wasn’t an easy decision to leave after only one season. The Castilla coach told me that if I stayed I would have a good chance of moving up to the first team, but in the end, with Monaco I was certain of playing regularly for a top club in Europe. I was ready for that challenge.

There were a lot of new players who arrived in 2013–14. James Rodriguez, Falcao, Moutinho, Abidal, me. And lots of young players were coming through. We qualified for the Champions League in my first season. Man, I had such anxiety about playing in that competition — it’s something I grew up watching on TV! But when I first came out of the tunnel with THAT music playing over the speakers and the patch on my sleeve, I knew I’d made the right decision.

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It was such an exciting time at the club. By my fourth season, the project had developed into the “Dream Team,” with Bakayoko, Bernardo, Falcao, Lemar … and then there was Mbappe.

Even at 16 years old, we could tell that this kid was different. His evolution was so fast. One minute, he’s fourth-choice striker, the next he’s undroppable. It’s no surprise to see the things he’s doing now after watching his development up close.

I’d developed too. I made my debut for Brazil. My mentality really shifted for the first time.

I remember Luis Campos, the sporting director at Monaco, said to me, “Look, you’re not just Fabinho anymore. And you’re not just Fabinho of Monaco either. You’re Fabinho of the Brazilian National Team. Everything changes now.”

That stayed with me. I wasn’t just playing to make a living, hoping to make it. I was here at this level because I’d fought to be here. I deserved it. 

At the end of 2016–17, after we won Ligue 1, several big clubs made offers for me. A lot of the other guys left and I was expecting to go too. 

But in the end, the club wouldn’t budge. I stayed. And thank God for that, because the next season, another team got in touch....


Liverpool weren’t the only club that made an offer that summer. There was another team in England I could’ve chosen, but it’s simple really: after you speak to Jurgen Klopp, you don’t want to hear anything from anyone else. It’s like, “OK, thank you, I’m coming to Liverpool!”

We met in England and he explained his vision, how the team played and how important I would be. I didn’t even understand what he was saying. I didn’t really speak English back then, but it didn’t matter! Fortunately, they brought someone along to translate. But even without a translator, you just understand his positivity. I was nodding my head, “Yes, boss!” before they even told me what he was saying.

He’s done amazing things for this club, but honestly it’s hard to talk about how good he is because for us as players it’s normal. His methods, preparation, team talks, decision making … he does everything with excellence and we just expect that from him every day. There is no other Klopp. 

When I arrived I could sense that Liverpool were at the start of something really special. The club had waited for this moment and now was the time for harvest. As a new player you are welcomed to the club like family. The way we are with each other, the way we treat each other, the way we embrace — it’s so special. It has that close, small feeling. But this is a massive club. You see every day what it means for the people in this city and beyond. Everywhere we go there are full stadiums, people waiting for us, and fans who have travelled around the world to see us play. That love and support is incredible. And then there is Anfield.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved the fans. But honestly, before Liverpool if you’d have asked me if they make much of a difference on the pitch, I would’ve said no. Now, after what I’ve lived here? Playing at Anfield, you see the difference. You feel it.

Sam Robles/The Players' Tribune

The ultimate example is the Champions League semifinal second leg against Barcelona in 2019.

I don’t think one person in the stadium sat down for a second of that match. My family told me the stewards just stopped asking after a while. They said they’d never experienced an atmosphere like it.

Oh man … that game. The feeling after the first leg was so strange, because even though we lost 3–0, we didn’t feel like we played badly. We created good chances but we just didn’t score. I remember Messi wasn’t that active, and then all of a sudden he’d scored twice.

For the third goal, the free kick, it was my foul. At the time, I actually thought I’d done the right thing because it was so far out. In my head I was like, No way. You’re not scoring from here.

But it’s Messi. He’s absurd. He puts it right in the top corner. Unstoppable.

In the changing room after the game, of course we were down, but we still had this optimism. At one point it was just Klopp, Mané and me left in the room.

We were all saying, “How did we lose this 3–0?” And then Klopp asks us, “But do you still believe we can win the second leg and make it to the final?”

I went first: “Yes, I think so.”

And then Sadio said, “Yeah, so do I.”

And Klopp was like, “Good. Because I think so too.”

When I arrived I could sense that Liverpool were at the start of something really special. The club had waited for this moment and now was the time for harvest.


Our confidence built ahead of the second leg. We even “forgot’”that Salah and Bobby were injured. We all just knew how it had to be. 

But the way it happened … man, there are some nights you can’t explain. Divock’s performance, Wijnaldum coming off the bench to score twice, Trent’s corner…. It’s fate. There is no other way to say it.

I remember after we scored the first goal in the first 10 minutes, I did this crazy slide tackle on Suarez. The referee gave me a yellow but I didn’t care because the adrenaline was so high. I was reacting to the energy from the crowd and they were responding to us. Everyone was on fire. Every player and every fan.

After the second goal, you could tell Barcelona really felt it. And the third came less than two minutes after. I looked at the clock like, Oh, we’ve done it too early. Now, they’re going to attack us.…

When the fourth went in, I wasn’t really paying attention. I was back near the halfway line. Everything happened so fast. I just saw Divock celebrate and all the confusion. I was waiting for the referee and the linesman to do something but no one did.

I remember everybody laughing and not even really celebrating — we couldn’t believe we scored that way. 4–0!!!

After that, I looked at my teammates in midfield, and I said, “Now, nothing will pass.” As we say in Brazil, we close the house. 

In the last minute they got the ball to Messi in our half and in my head I’m thinking, no, please anyone but this guy again.

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But this time, I stuck out a leg, won the ball and broke away. I felt his foot trip me from behind and that was it. The referee blew for full time. We’d really done it.

After the final, it took some time for me to process what we’d done. I took my medal back to Brazil to show to everyone that I was a Champions League winner but I still didn’t believe it was real. I’m still getting my head around it.

That trophy was so important for everyone. Many of our players hadn’t won a big title before and the club had gone a long time without winning anything. After what happened the year before against Real Madrid it meant everything for the club and the fans.

When I arrived here, the club had been 28 years without a Premier League title, 13 years without the Champions League, six years without any trophy at all. To be part of the team that changed that is so cool.

And getting to party with the fans was one of the best experiences of my life. Those celebrations after we came back from Madrid, I remember people telling me, “This is nothing. When you win the Premier League, we will break the city!” 

28 years without a Premier League title, 13 years without the Champions League, six years without any trophy at all. To be part of the team that changed that is so cool.


Unfortunately because of COVID, we didn’t get to see that happen. But I have done two bus parades through the city … and, man, I don’t know how many people get to experience something like this. The way our fans love this club, what it means to them, it is so special and it makes you want to do better, to win more to make them happy and party together again.

This season has been frustrating, but we have lived history in these last few years together. I’m so proud to be a part of this club.

I am a father now. I have my own “little Scouser,” Israel. I can’t wait for the day I can take him to Anfield for the first time to watch the stands in amazement like I did.

I am so grateful for the fans.

Even in difficult moments you are there for us.

We hear you. We feel you.

We will keep going because you keep us going.

And we will fight to see the day you break the city.