The 24-year-old is currently on of the first names on the team sheet for India and FC Goa.
It is not every day that you see an 18-year-old gain the attention of the Premier League and other English clubs. However, Brandon Fernandes’ talent was there to see in his early teen years. Teams like Leicester City, Sunderland and Reading offered him trials way back in 2012, when Brandon was still 18.
After trials at the aforementioned clubs, followed by a stint at ASD Cape Town, a football club in the South African city of Cape Town, Brandon Fernandes returned to India to begin his football adventure here. Then 20-years-old, he signed for Sporting Club de Goa in 2015.
The time Brandon spent at the Goan club may have only been a few months, but this was where he showed Indian football how creative he can be, how good his set-piece ability is and how intelligent he is as a player. His performances at Sporting Goa led him to be drafted by Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) draft, but unfortunately injuries prevented him from playing in 2015. Having made just one substitute appearance for Mumbai City, the attacking midfielder joined Mohun Bagan, then an I-League club, on loan.
Despite Brandon Fernandes making an impressive start to life in the I-League, a season-ending injury resulted in him needing to operate his knee. With two years of his young career gone to injury, he then needed an environment that would protect him and create a pathway for him to return from injury. The dynamic midfielder joined Churchill Brothers hoping he would get a break.
In his sole season for Churchill Brothers in the I-League, he scored three goals and created a further seven, gaining valuable match fitness and staying injury-free. Once again, the ISL beckoned for Brandon. And this time, from his home state. FC Goa picked up the player and he has gone to establish himself as an integral part of the club. The Margao-born midfielder, now 25, is not just Goa’s midfield orchestrator, he is also India’s primary creator, having made his national debut in 2019.
Brandon Fernandes: Observations and Numbers
Now, let’s talk about Brandon Fernandes the player. He is primarily a No. 10, but his versatility and positional intelligence allows him to operate on the left side of the attack, as a No. 8, or even as a deep-lying playmaker. A quadriceps tear meant Fernandes could play just 11 matches in the ISL last season, but he still managed to put up decent numbers.
We cannot describe his playing style without talking about how FC Goa use him in their system. Goa tend to initiate their attacks from the middle and Fernandes is a key to this because he tends to drop inward and link with others via the half-spaces. His ability allows him to be aware of what his teammates do on the pitch. He’s not only focused on the ball, but also on the space around him, observant of his teammates’ movements.
Brandon Fernandes is a key chance-creation machine, having been the best Indian assist-provider in the ISL for quite some time. He has a lot of variety in his passing. He can split defences with his through balls, shift flanks with ease and keep the flow ticking in the final third with his short passing and movement. Additionally, he is an excellent set-piece taker. His deliveries from free-kicks and corners are top-notch.
Fernandes isn’t the best of dribblers around, but he can shield the ball and then quickly turn or use body feints to win 1v1 duels. His movement inside the box to position himself for shooting opportunities is something he needs to work on.
This season, of course, FC Goa had to play in the AFC Champions League as well. They were up against teams better than them in the form of Laurent Blanc’s Al Rayyan and Al Wahda.
Bearing in mind the gap in quality and technical superiority, Goa had to adopt a more conservative approach and needed everyone to put in a top shift defensively. Against Al Rayyan and Al Wahda is where Brandon Fernandes yet again showed he can be a more complete midfielder, covering immense ground and winning a lot of ground duels.
A look back at ISL 2019-20
Up next, we’ll be talking about the 2019-20 season, where he featured more often. It was a crucial campaign for him, as he took the leap and established himself. He had two goals and five assists overall, which may not be impressive numbers per se. However, when you put the above factors into context, he was very vital to them winning the league phase. Sergio Lobera moulded him very well and worked on making him more confident on the ball. He was also a key reason for Ferran Corominas ending as the top scorer with 14 goals in 2019-20.
If there was no Brandon, FC Goa wouldn’t have been as sublime and efficient in their quick transitional play. He can also make some good blindside runs and deceive opponents with his passing action – one of the rare Indian players who try to think outside the box.
In short, he’s going to be the heart of the Goan and Indian midfield for quite some time.