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Fabinho deliberately targeted and "smashed" in training before Liverpool breakthrough

Former Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov has admitted to deliberately targeting Fabinho in training during the pair's time together at Monaco.

Berbatov showed the current Liverpool midfielder - currently going through a rough patch at Anfield - some tough love in the Principality, assuring his teammate that it was all for his own benefit. "In training sessions I was used to physical contact, most of the time I was smashing him here and there, with elbows and shoulders so he could go on the ground," Berbatov told Optus Sport.

"He was like 'Berba, come on!' and I'm like 'I'm preparing you for the Premier League'. Funnily enough, years later he's in the Premier League and one of the best players in the Liverpool team."

Of course, the Bulgarian's treatment of Fabinho emphatically paid off in 2018 when the Reds stumped up an initial £39million for the Brazilian's signature. Fabinho has since gone on to win the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup under Jurgen Klopp, and now he has another feat on his glittering CV - albeit a less prestigious one.

The 28-year-old was named as part of Berbatov's dream starting XI of past teammates, having retired the same year Fabinho made the move to Anfield. "I don't want to be boring, I want to say something that will surprise people – so I've gone with Fabinho," the three-time Premier League winner explained.

"We were in Monaco together, he was a young boy back then. I came from the Premier League but straight away I could see his talent. He was very good in training, taking responsibility in the games, he could play at right-back and in the middle of the park. "

Berbatov gave Fabinho some tough love at Monaco

Fabinho left Monaco to join Liverpool in 2018

Hoping to fire Brazil to glory at the World Cup later this year, Fabinho's most pressing task is to get Liverpool back on track following an underwhelming start to the season. But the No.3 will firstly have to regain his place in Klopp's starting XI, having been dropped for the much-needed 2-0 win against Rangers in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Pundit Rio Ferdinand, another ex-United man, reckons that Fabinho will make a swift return, though. "I think Fabinho comes in and plays against Arsenal," Ferdinand declared post-match, with the Reds travelling to north London on Sunday.

"In defensive positions in midfield, he's fantastic, been a mainstay, so I don't see him not coming in and playing. Having those four attacking players on the pitch tonight was perfect. I think Arsenal is a completely different proposition and I think they won't be able to play as freely and expansively as they did today."