Fabinho earned the second title of his career in 2019/20, and in overcoming a brutal blow mid-season, the Brazilian showed he has the resilience needed at Liverpool.
His success at Monaco earned him a switch to Merseyside, and after battling his way into the side in his first season with the Reds, the 26-year-old maintained his strong form this time around.
It wasn’t a campaign without its setbacks, though, and it can be described as a season in three parts for Fabinho, with the end result suggesting he can take another big step in his third year with Liverpool.
Turning 27 in October, that he is unlikely to have even reached his prime years as a deep-lying midfielder will be music to Klopp’s ears.
Started: 32 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 7
Unused sub: 2
Overall Season Rating: 9
The dominant start
Having overcome the challenges of his move to Anfield, acclimatising to the demands of Klopp’s system and settling into an undisputed role in the first-choice XI, there were big expectations on Fabinho for 2019/20.
He was one of eight ever-presents in pre-season, owing to his strange omission from the Brazil squad for Copa America, and this allowed him time to get back up to speed.
A dip into the solid, rather than spectacular, following the 2-1 win at Chelsea five days later saw him hold his own against Sheffield United, Salzburg and Leicester, before a frustrating display at Man United.
The sight of Klopp on the Old Trafford touchline, fuming at his midfield anchor as he underhit passes and chased shadows in front of the defence was a concern.
But the following league game saw him turn in one of his finest displays in a Liverpool shirt, the metronomic base as the Reds pinned Tottenham back on the way to a 2-1 win at Anfield.
Such was Fabinho‘s standing at that point that it was seen as a disappointment that he didn’t pick up his fifth booking of the league season that day, with a crucial clash with Man City on the horizon.
Klopp navigated that by resting the Brazilian for the 2-1 comeback win at Aston Villa, and was rewarded with another world-class showing against City.
This time, it was marked by a stunning goal from 30 yards out, putting Liverpool one up on their way to a 3-1 victory that would have great bearing on the title race.
Fabinho wheeled away pointing to an imaginary watch on his wrist; the message was that it was time he got on the scoresheet again, but just over two weeks later, the euphoria was reduced to pain.
After the game, Klopp described the impact as “massive,” and the club eventually confirmed that he had suffered ankle ligament damage, ruling him out for the rest of the year.
It was a strange game against League One opposition, in which the youngsters who came in shone and the senior players struggled.
A hit-and-miss run followed, with poor displays against Watford, Chelsea and Bournemouth, and left out of the starting lineup for the Champions League second-leg loss to Atletico Madrid, he was one of those whom benefited from football’s three-month pause.
His wide, enhanced smile was a prominent feature of Liverpool’s Zoom calls during lockdown, and the time at home seemingly steeled the midfielder for a revival.
The comeback and beyond
His importance to side was never in question, when fully fit and firing, but the performances Henderson was able to produce in his absence led some to believe he was not indispensable.
But punctuating the champions season with another long-range stunner on the way to a 4-0 win over Palace, Fabinho reinforced that he is arguably Liverpool’s best midfielder.
Whether or not Klopp adds to his midfield ranks in the transfer window, his No. 3 is the one player whose place should not be under threat; he is unique in his ability, and offers something the Reds had been missing for almost a decade.
It could even be that Fabinho is among the next group of players to be approached for talks over a new contract, as the club aim to reward their key figures.
Fabinho may even become more vital to Liverpool’s approach moving forward, with Pepijn Lijnders explaining how Klopp’s staff are working on ways to “remain unpredictable.”
“We have used the corona time to good effect,” the assistant manager said.
“There was time to work on new variants, bringing boys in a different role and in different spaces in training and seeing what the effect is.”
One of those “new variants” could be an added emphasis on those clipped balls from Fabinho over the opponent’s defence, as seen with his brilliant assist for Andy Robertson in the 1-1 draw with Burnley in July.
With his 27th birthday coming up, there is still plenty of time for Fabinho to adapt his game further, and the way he was able to respond to the setback of his ankle injury shows he is up for the challenge.
Best moment: That rocket against Man City.
Worst moment: The ankle injury against Napoli, and his subsequent drop in form.
Role next season: Starting almost every game as No. 6.