Gelson da Conceição Tavares Fernandes (born 2 September 1986) is a Swiss professional footballer who plays as a defensive midfielder for German club Eintracht Frankfurt. He also plays for the Switzerland national team.
Fernandes started his football career at FC Sion and was promoted to the first team in 2004 after being called by manager Gilbert Gress. The 2005–06 season proved to be the breakout year for Fernandes as he got more playing time for Sion. He played in central midfielder position for Sion. On 23 July 2005, Fernandes made his professional league debut for Sion in a 2–1 loss against Lausanne. In his first season, Fernandes made 22 league appearance and scoring none. In the 2006–07 season, Fernandes was able to get more playing time when he made 35 league appearances for Sion. In the first round of the UEFA Cup, Fernandes made his European Cup debut for Sion in a 0–0 draw against Bayer Leverkusen and in the second round of UEFA Cup, Fernandes scored his first professional league goal and first European Cup goal against Leverkusen which Sion lost 3–1 on aggregate. On 14 October 2006, Fernandes scored his first league goal for Sion in a 1–1 draw against Luzern. Fernandes also led his team win the Swiss Cup in a penalty shootout (5–3) against Young Boys. In the final game of the league 2006–07 season, Fernandes received a second bookable offense on a 90th minutes after receiving a yellow card in a first half which turns out to be Fernandes last appearance for Sion as Sion won 3–0 against St. Gallen.
Fernandes playing for Leicester City in 2011
Fernandes signed for Manchester City from Sion on 14 July 2007 for an undisclosed fee, believed to be around €6 million (£4.2 million), which would make his sale the second highest transfer in the history of the Swiss League. Following his signing, Sven-Göran Eriksson commented that he thought Fernandes was the "best young player in Switzerland." He made his debut in the 0–0 draw against Portsmouth.
On 10 October 2007, Fernandes made his Manchester City debut after coming on for Elano in the 89th minute in a 1–0 victory over Birmingham City. He scored his first goal in a 2–0 victory against Newcastle United on 2 January 2008, after coming on as a substitute for Stephen Ireland. It took just 40 seconds for Fernandes and Kelvin Etuhu to combine for the former to finish from the edge of the box. Fernandes scored his second goal in the 1–3 loss to Arsenal at the City of Manchester Stadium. Vedran Ćorluka took advantage of a Gaël Clichy defensive error, who slipped in a pass into the six-yard box for Fernandes to tuck home. The goal was not enough to secure any points for Manchester City, but showed the City fans that he was also capable of having an eye for goal like fellow youth midfielder, Michael Johnson.
At the start of the 2008–09 season, Fernandes had his number changed from number 28 to number 19. The number 28 shirt was taken by Daniel Sturridge. Fernandes had since scored twice in the 2008–09 season with goals against Brighton & Hove Albion and the final goal in the 6–0 win against Portsmouth. He made 59 appearances for City, scoring four times, but was increasingly used as a substitute after Mark Hughes took over as manager.
On 9 July 2009, Fernandes moved on trial to Saint-Étienne. He passed a medical to complete a £2 million move to Saint-Étienne. He signed a two-year contract and moved on an undisclosed fee. He made his league debut on 8 August 2009 in a 0–2 loss to Nice. His time at Saint Etienne had a difficult start and he moved little-by-little in the middle with some fighting and a good state of mind without being convincing. Fernandes went on to make 33 appearance for Saint-Étienne in his first season. His relationship with Christophe Galtier (the manager who signed him from Manchester City) was deemed undesirable and did not fit into the plans for Galtier. Although returning from loan, Galtier allowed Fernandes to leave the club, only for loan.
Fernandes playing for Leicester City in 2011
On 30 August 2010, it was announced that Fernandes would be going out on loan with an option to purchase to Chievo Verona. Fernandes made his debut for Chievo in a 3–1 win over Genoa on 12 September 2010. He scored his first goal for Chievo 3–1 win over Napoli on 22 September 2010. On 31 October 2010, Fernandes received a red card after a second bookable offense against Parma. Fernandes went to make 29 appearances and scoring two goals for Chievo. At end of the 2010–11 season, Chievo Verona decided against signing Fernandes on a permanent basis.
On 4 August 2011, Championship club Leicester City signed Fernandes on a season long loan, subject to international clearance. Fernandes was signed by Sven-Göran Eriksson who signed him at Manchester City. Following his move to England on loan, Fernandes revealed he was told that his move will become permanent if he helps the Leicester City gain promotion to the Premier League. He made his debut for the club in a 1–0 away win over Coventry City on 6 August 2011, scoring his first goal in a 2–2 draw against Nottingham Forest on 20 August. Following Eriksson's sacking due to poor results, Nigel Pearson was appointed manager Leicester City again. Fernandes did not play under Pearson until on 3 December 2011 and made his last appearance for Leicester City in a 2–1 loss against Hull City. On 30 December 2011, Fernandes asked for his loan contract at Leicester City to be terminated and to return to France. Six days later on 4 January, it was announced that Fernandes's loan deal with Leicester had been cancelled by mutual consent.
After his loan deal at Leicester City ended, he was then sent out for another loan deal, this time he signed for current Serie A frontrunners Udinese until the end of the season to strengthen the squad after some of the players went to play at the African Cup of Nations. So Udinese wanted a player who could acclimatise quickly. On 22 January 2012, Fernandes made his Udinese debut in a 2–1 win over Catania in the Coppa Italia. Having made eleven appearance, Fernandes scored his first goal, on his return, in a 3–1 loss against Roma. Ahead of the 2012–13 season, Fernandes once again not featured for the club's pre-season training.
Sporting Clube de Portugal
Fernandes playing for SC Freiburg in 2013
On 4 July 2012, Fernandes signed a four-year contract with Sporting Clube de Portugal, with a €25 million buy-out clause. After his loan ended at Sion, Fernandes was among with many players to be sold.
On 21 December 2012, it was confirmed that he returned to Sion. He signed a loan until the end of the 2013–14 season with an option to sign him at the end of the loan. He hoped to settle down for a longer time at one club, as this would be his longest stay at one team since his time at Manchester. Fernandes made his debut in a 3–0 loss against Basel on 10 February 2013 and had been the first team regular since. However, towards the end of the season, Fernandes suffered an injury that will keep him out for the reminder of 2012–13 season.
At the end of the 2013–14 season, his options to join the club permanently has ended after the club have to pay the price to sign Fernandes.
In June 2013, he signed with Bundesliga side SC Freiburg on long-term contract, with a fee of €400,000. Fernandes's move to Freiburg came when he went to trial with the club.
He made league debut in the opening game of the season, as Freiburg lose 3–1 against Bayer Leverkusen. Since his debut, Fernandes has become a first team regular, playing as a defensive midfielder. Fernandes first goal came on 23 November 2013, in a 1–0 victory over Eintracht Braunschweig. After the match, Fernandes said: "I am totally happy for the young team. These were three very important points, but we have only eleven, that's not much."
In early August 2014, it was announced that Fernandes would leave Freiburg despite still having contract until 2016. He signed a four-year contract until 2018 with French Stade Rennais. Freiburg received a transfer fee believed to be €1.6 million, which still can be increased by additional performance-related payments.
On 2 June 2017, Fernandes joined Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt on a two-year deal.
Fernandes with Switzerland in 2015
Fernandes was captain of the Switzerland U-21 that played against the England U-21 side in their Euro 2007 qualifying match.
He made his first full international appearance for Switzerland against the Netherlands on 22 August 2007. He has since continued to be a regular for Switzerland, playing in their friendly defeat to England at Wembley in February 2008. He also played in all three of the Swiss side's Euro 2008 fixtures. On 28 March 2009, Fernandes scored his first goal for Switzerland, heading in a corner to seal a 2–0 win against Moldova. He scored his first 2010 World Cup goal for Switzerland against eventual winners Spain on 16 June 2010, which Switzerland went on to win 1–0. After this, he was considered as a national hero in Switzerland. However, Switzerland did not advance to the Round of 16 and Spain went on to win the World Cup.
He was included in the Switzerland national football team 23 man squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Fernandes arrived in Switzerland with his mother at the age of five from the Cape Verde islands, the family settling in Sion, as his father works for FC Sion as a groundskeeper.
He natively speaks Portuguese, the official language of his birthplace, Cape Verde. He is the cousin of the footballers Manuel Fernandes, Adilson Cabral and Edimilson Fernandes.
Fernandes has a daughter.