The 24-year-old spoke about his journey in Indian football, move to the coastal club and ambitions going forward.

In recent times, India has seen the rise of many talented young midfielders, who have the ability to represent the national team and perform at the highest level for years to come. Starting from the likes of Sahal Abdul Samad to Anirudh Thapa, the list keeps on increasing with every passing season. One such midfielder who also falls in this category has to be Mumbai City FC’s local boy Raynier Fernandes.

The 24-year-old has an exceptional passing range and is very skillful with the ball at his feet. He started making the right noises at Air India and then was roped in by Mohun Bagan in 2016. Fernandes was starstruck, as he rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in Indian football. “When I entered the dressing room at Mohun Bagan, there were Anas (Edathodika), Jeje (Lalpekhlua), Pronay (Halder) Souvik (Chakrabarti) and others. I was like what am I doing over here?”

“In the first season, I did not get to play much and was often used on the right flank, as they had many good midfielders. It was very difficult to adjust and I played the first game against Shillong. I was not prepared for the position, but I gave my all. I also got to play few matches in the AFC Cup, so it was a good experience. The first year was very difficult for me at Mohun Bagan.”

“The last best chance I got in the first year was in the AFC Cup against Bengaluru FC. I played in my actual position, alongside Bikramjit (Singh) and it was a great match. I gave my first assist, I scooped the ball over the defenders to Jeje and we won 3-1,” Raynier said in his Instagram interaction with Anant Tyagi.

Later, he joined Mumbai City in 2018 and soon became a vital cog in former head coach Jorge Costa’s team. Speaking about the last campaign and his views on City Football Group coming in, he said, “Last season and the season before that, we have had the willpower to fight for every match. Whatever mistakes we have made in the last seasons, we will fix that. With the arrival of the City Football Group, we have a big plus point as well. We’ve got to prove ourselves in the ISL and to do that, we need to win the league.”

The coronavirus situation in the country has taken a toll on a lot of people and sporting activities have also come to a halt. Therefore, Raynier Fernandes is focused on having a strong pre-season, which he feels will pave the way for the upcoming Indian Super League for the Islanders.

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“My first target is to get back to the team for pre-season. We have to prepare ourselves mentally. We have to work hard in training, with the fitness regiment that the City Football Group has sent across. Our main aim for the season is to win as many matches as we can and get into the playoffs. Hopefully, we can bring the trophy home,” he explained.

Raynier Fernandes spent two seasons with Mohun Bagan and in the second campaign, he was one of the highly-rated talents in the I-League. His consistent performances in the middle of the park did not escape the eye of Mumbai City, who decided to bring him back home and he has been a fan-favourite ever since joining the Islanders.

“I found out that my home club wants me to play for them, I was like ‘why not join this club?’ The experience over the last two seasons was crazy. I just want to thank coach Jorge Costa for giving me the opportunity to play for Mumbai City FC. We could not reach the final in my first season, although we reached the playoffs. The entire management is like a family and the experience has been amazing,” he added.

The 24-year-old was calm and composed on the ball even in his first ISL season. His consistent performances caught the eye of national team head coach Igor Stimac, who called him to be a part of the Blue Tigers’ tour to Thailand for the King’s Cup. He subsequently made his debut and it had to be the biggest moment in Raynier’s career. “The best Indian players are selected to play for the national team. I do whatever the coach expects me to do, enjoy the game and I keep playing. I was very honoured that he gave me a chance to play for the national team.”

Raynier Fernandes has a great attitude and fighting spirit as a player, coupled with exceptional versatility. Despite being a central midfielder, he can also feature on the right flank. However, since joining Mumbai, he has had a different kind of admiration for Portuguese midfielder Paulo Machado, admitting that he looks up to him.

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“Paulo Machado is someone I would look up to. We play in a similar position. His game style and the way he plays, is why I always look up to him. He is a very talented player and I got to learn a lot about football in these two seasons because of him,” the player signed off.

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