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And on Tuesday, perhaps the best one of all returns to show just how far he has come.

Fabinho was just 18 when he first arrived at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, where the first leg of Liverpool’s Champions League quarter-final against Real will take place this evening.

He was a tall, skinny full-back who had been whisked away from Fluminense, his first club, before he had made a single first-team appearance.

Rio Ave, a modest club in the north of Portugal, was his initial destination. Nuno Espirito Santo, the current Wolves boss, was their manager, while Jan Oblak and Ederson, now two of the world’s best goalkeepers, were in the squad, along with Bebe, once of Manchester United.

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The teenage Fabinho would train with them briefly, but would be moved on loan to Castilla almost immediately. All part of the grand plan of Jorge Mendes, the super-agent most commonly associated with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and, of course, Jose Mourinho.

It has been an out-of-sorts season for a club so used to winning the big trophies. In recent years, Real Madrid have won three successive Champions League titles – the first team to do so in the competition and the first in the European Cup overall since AC Milan in the 1980s. They also won La Liga last season for a record-extending 34th time.

But there have been some uncharacteristically poor results this time around. In La Liga, Real have been beaten by Cadiz and Levante, as well as damaging draws to Osasuna and Elche. There were also two defeats to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League group stage. Real eventually topped Group B but with only ten points from a possible 18.

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