Knowledge is key for Federico Fernandez
5th September 2014
Shortly after Swansea City's Argentine ace Federico Fernandez had arrived at his new club, the centre-back made it clear he was keen to learn.
Fernandez's transfer from Napoli saw him switch Serie A for the Barclays Premier League and, having made his Swans debut in the Capital One Cup win over Rotherham United at the Liberty, the centre-back is now looking forward to his first taste of the top flight.
And, in an exclusive interview with our matchday programme Jack Magazine, the World Cup runner-up reveals his plans to excel off the pitch as much as on it.
Federico Fernandez is hoping that his move to Swansea City and the Barclays Premier League will help further his education both on and off the pitch.
At the age of just 25, the Argentina international has already sampled football culture in Italy and Spain - in addition to that of his native country - and is keen to broaden his extensive knowledge of the beautiful game by learning from the "ambitious" style of British football.
But that's not all the central defender wants to gain from plying his trade in the Premier League.
As well as being pretty sharp on his feet, Fernandez is also nimble minded as he reveals his eagerness to hit the books during his spare time away from football.
"I started studying for a degree in sports science in 2008, when I was playing in the Estudiantes first-team in Argentina," Fernandez tells Jack Magazine after sealing his "dream" switch to the Swans.
"I was motivated to do it because my parents would always tell me: 'you never know what could happen with football'.
"They were - and are - right. I felt it was important for me to study something, in case my career in football didn't work out.
"But it is also something that interests me and is a good thing to do. I would like to finish my studies one day - maybe here?"
During Jack Magazine's sit-down conversation with Garry Monk's seventh summer signing, Fernandez's enthusiasm for self-improvement quickly becomes apparent.
Born in Tres Algarrobos, a town located in the Buenos Aires province of Argentina, the centre-back began his career with Estudiantes de La Plata, who he joined at the tender age of 14.
During his time in Argentina, at a point where he was aiming to establish himself in the Los Pincharratas first-team, his team-mate and friend Juan Sebastian Veron once gave him his very best 'Mystic Meg' impersonation when he told him: "one day you will play for the national team and you will play in Europe."
After making his professional debut in a 1-0 defeat to Velez Sarsfield in September 2008, Fernandez fulfilled both those bold predictions made by the fortune-telling former Manchester United midfielder, having been capped 30 times for Argentina after joining Italian side Napoli for €3 million in 2011.
And despite moving to Europe at the age of just 22, it was Veron's audacious predictions and Fernandez's burning ambition to develop as a player that drove his desire to leave home in South America.
"Argentina is a really nice country, I lived very well there," he acknowledges. "But if you are a good player, playing in South America, there is always the temptation to move to Europe because it is the best place to play football.
"Veron helped me a lot when I was trying to make my way in the first-team. Estudiantes is a team with a lot of English influence, and Veron, who was a major player for Manchester United in the Premier League, is a part of that.
"It was a big step moving to Europe at a young age, but I felt it was the right time to do so.
"It was important for me because I wanted to further my development as a football player. I wanted to learn about Italian football, which is a lot different to football in Argentina.
"It is very tactical, and moving there helped me improve that side of my game - to read the game and to think about it from a tactical perspective.
"I also have had the benefit of working under three different managers - one Italian and two Spanish managers - which has also helped me learn and improve."
During his three-year stint in Naples, Fernandez racked up just short of 50 appearances for the Italian giants, plus a four-month loan spell at Spanish side Getafe at the start of 2013.
His promising displays at club level earned him a call-up to the Argentina squad for this summer's World Cup, where he started for then-manager Alejandro Sabella's side on four occasions as they reached the tournament final, where they were eventually beaten by Germany 1-0 after extra-time.
So far, Fernandez's journey in European football has stood him in good stead, but the World Cup runner-up feels he has finally arrived at his destination in securing a move to the "top level" of world football.
"I have learned a lot from playing in Argentina and in Italy, and now I want to learn even more in the Premier League," he adds.
"It has always been a dream for me to move to the Premier League, and I am so happy to have achieved that dream. I want to stay at this level because I believe it is the top level in the world right now.
"It is a great new challenge for me. Teams here are very ambitious. Even when sides are three goals up, they continue to push to score more. In Italy, if you are three up, the idea is to defend that lead.
"Although I didn't play against Swansea for Napoli in the Europa League last season, I saw a team that holds the ball and plays very good football. It caught my attention.
"I can identify myself with the Swansea style - I like to play the ball from the back and, of course, I love to defend too.
"I am looking forward to playing my first game in the Premier League, and I will be doing my best on and off the pitch for the supporters."
Considering his appetite for learning, it won't come as a surprise if Fernandez finishes top of the class both on and off the pitch at Swansea City.
You can purchase the Jack Magazine edition containing Federico's interview by clicking HERE