Fabio's infectious smile has been brightening up the corridors of La Beaujoire for just over a year now. Interview…
Some of you may be convinced that Fabio Da Silva has been around for longer though ad that's probably that you're mistaking him for his twin brother, Lyon's Rafael. The former Manchester United men met in Ligue 1 Conforama on Saturday with Fabio playing the full 90 minutes in Nantes' 1-0 win at Groupama Stadium and Rafael an unused substitute.
Speaking before the game, Fabio told The Ligue 1 Show on beIN Sports: "I like to smile to be honest! It's just the way I am! My brother a little bit less but it's the way we are. To play against my brother is always special, straight away I beat him, I won one and drew one last season so he always texts me saying he needs to win one as well!"
Since swapping Middlesbrough for Nantes last July, the 29-year-old Brazilian has settled in nicely. As well as enjoying his life in western France, Fabio believes his football has improved due to the difference in mentality this side of the channel.
"I really like it here"
"I feel very comfortable, I really like it here. I like the city, so I enjoy my football now. You have so many technical players here and you see the way they see football with talent you know! Maybe in England you need to be more direct and here if you do something different they enjoy it, they go ‘oh that's nice' so I think technically I've improved!"
Fabio's first season in France was a difficult one. Miguel Cardoso was sacked after just eight games, and then the tragic passing of team-mate Emiliano Sala shook the entire Nantes squad.
"When these things happen, of course it's going to create a lot of bonds but it's hard to be honest. It was a hard season, an emotional season in many parts. We lost a coach very early in the season… then this tragedy so in the first season I experienced a lot of emotions. These things make us think about life as well, and maybe see things with a different perspective you know… and this is an important thing for all your life!"
Vahid Halilhodzic, who guided Nantes through that difficult period then left the club three days before the start of the new season, making for yet more instability for Fabio and co.
"It's hard because we did our pre-season with him and he had his way to play, then came a different coach with a different mentality and you need to change quick! But we are professionals, and in football, modern football this is happening more and more!"
Freedom under Gourcuff
Fortunately, his replacement Christian Gourcuff is proving a popular appointment. Fabio said: "I love it to be honest. I really like him, he's a cool guy, he's calm and he treats everyone the same way. That's the way I am as well. I love the way his mentality to play football with the ball, possession but of course not forgetting about defending. He wants to be aggressive, to go and hurt the other team, in a way to organise in the right time. We accept and we are doing what he wants us to do and I'm enjoying being a part of this!
"We accept what he wants us to do, and I enjoy to be a part of this! Sometimes I come inside to play like even a midfielder to be honest, and he puts the wingers wide and sometimes he changes and puts me wide and I think we have more flexibility in this system."
Revelling in his newfound freedom under Gourcuff, Fabio is yet to miss a minute of football this season. So could the man who once claimed he could also play as a forward perhaps move even further forward, replacing Kalifa Coulibaly as Nantes striker? "When I was young maybe, with the boys! I scored a lot of goals when I was young but it's different now. Coulibaly is doing a great job for us and with the centre-backs getting bigger and bigger every day, for me it would be hard eh!"