WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO FABIO CARVALHO?
Fabio Carvalho came to the attention of most Liverpool fans on Deadline Day last year when the club made a move for the then 19 year old. A £5million deal was agreed with Fulham, allowing the youngster to see out the remainder of the campaign in the Championship before joining the Reds.
Unfortunately the paperwork wasn’t completed in time and the deal fell through. Fast forward to the final month of the season and the Reds stuck with their initial agreement with Fulham despite the player running out of contract.
This gentleman’s agreement ensured a tribunal was avoided and the player’s future was sorted. Jürgen Klopp waxed lyrical at his unveiling, doing little to hide his excitement at snapping up what many regarded as the best young player in the Championship.
Jürgen Klopp on Carvalho’s unveiling: “What a talent he is, hey? A player who can bring a stadium to its feet. He puts his personality into his performances, he is confident and adventurous with the ball, and he wants to make things happen.”
The youngster settled in well during pre-season and rekindled his friendship with one time Academy teammate Harvey Elliott. He was involved in the friendlies and was usually deployed on the left of the front three. Everything pointed to the youngster making an impact.
It certainly looked like that in the opening weeks of the campaign. The Portuguese born attacking midfielder made his debut in the Community Shield, coming on as a late substitute against Manchester City. He went on to feature in each of the side’s first five league fixtures (all as a substitute).
He netted his first goal for the club with a sweetly struck volley on his weaker left foot in the 9-0 trouncing of Bournemouth. He made it goals in back to back games when he came off the bench to net a last gasp winner against a stubborn Newcastle to send Anfield into a frenzy.
He was rewarded with his first start for the Reds in the very next game. He was picked as part of a midfield three alongside Fabinho and Elliott in the heated atmosphere of a Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. It showed he had gained the trust of the manager.
Unfortunately, Carvalho had to come off at halftime with a knock. He missed the next game and was an unused substitute on his return to the matchday squad against Ajax in the Champions League. Just like that, his momentum had been knocked.
He fought his way back into the starting XI after the first international break, starting at home to Brighton in the Premier League. A quiet showing saw him hooked at the break. He was then an unused substitute in the next two games before being handed his Champions League debut.
Once again this was a big one, with the side needing victory against Rangers at Ibrox to put themselves in a good position to qualify from the group stages. Luis Diaz’s injury had opened up a spot on the left wing and Carvalho had a chance to grasp it.
He played on the left of a midfield four in a 4-4-2 setup and excelled. He got the balance right in terms of expressing himself on the ball and putting in the hard yards defensively. He played his part as Liverpool recorded their biggest away win of the season.
That sparked a run of five consecutive games, including back to back starts against West Ham United and Nottingham Forest. He went on to make four appearances in the last six games before the World Cup break.
He had registered 16 appearances for the side by that point, starting six times (520 minutes). He had been an unused substitute on five occasions as well. This is a far cry from what we have witnessed since the resumption of club football following the World Cup.
He started the first game back, lining up on the left wing away at Manchester City in the EFL Cup. He struggled with the physicality of the game, as he had most times this season, but he still popped up with a goal to level the tie early on.
He showed his calmness infront of goal to side foot Milner’s pass into the bottom corner. In such a big game, that strike was even more impressive. He was hooked at halftime and was subsequently overlooked for the next five matches.
It was curious to see the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and even Ben Doak forced out of position on the left wing (be it from the start or off the bench) with the side struggling, all whilst Carvalho was available.
Carvalho may not be a world-beater but he had proved in the first half of the season that he had something to offer and could be trusted. How has he gone from a promising prospect starting in Merseyside derbies to now being an afterthought?
His last start came in the FA Cup replay victory at Wolves three months ago. Since then, his only appearances have been a two minute cameo at Bournemouth and a one minute outing at Real Madrid. Even when there were injuries in attack, he was overlooked.
With the January arrival of Gakpo and the return to fitness of Diaz, all six attackers are now fit and available, what chance does he have now of even making the matchday squad? Since the World Cup, he’s only made four appearances, with two starts (114 minutes). A stark contrast to the first half of the campaign.
The manager was quizzed on Carvalho’s lack of playing time and maintained that nothing had gone on behind the scenes. There have been reports today that the player will be loaned next season, and that comes as no surprise.
He’s played just two minutes in the Premier League since the turn of the year. His Liverpool career started so promisingly, but somewhere along the line he fell out of favour. At twenty years of age, Carvalho still has time on his hands to go on and achieve his full potential.
Fulham wanted him on loan this season but Liverpool declined. It’s been a curious tale thus far. The manager has been quick to hand youngsters opportunities, so it’s caught the eye that Carvalho has been overlooked for so long.
He hasn’t been used once in his natural position (behind a striker in a 4-2-3-1) despite the initial chatter about him potentially lining up behind big money striker Darwin Nunez. Whatever happens, he will go on to have a long successful career, be that at Liverpool or elsewhere.