How Fabio Carvalho reacted to being denied a move to one of Europe’s top outfits in Liverpool was rather indicative of the character of the teenager they were hoping to acquire in the winter transfer window.
As it turned out, fans were forced to settle for the sole acquisition of former FC Porto winger, Luis Diaz – a signing that has certainly, with all due respect to the Fulham man, felt more than enough.
Speaking about the failed switch, Cottagers boss Marco Silva told reporters: “Fabio is really happy. The day after I saw him with the same smile on his face. This is the main thing.”
No tantrums, no sulking, no demands, just pure professionalism from a 19-year-old starlet whom many believe has a talent ceiling well-suited to the expectations and challenges associated with a club like Liverpool.
Fabio Carvalho this season:
🏃♂️ 31 appearances (all competitions)
⚽️ Eight goals
🤝 Seven assists
🌟 G/A rate of one per 160.66 mins
— Empire of the Kop (@empireofthekop) April 7, 2022
Perhaps we shouldn’t be inclined to make too much of a big deal about such a reaction given that the youngster will have been more than aware of the fact that his contract is set to expire at the end of the season.
After all, there would seem little point in throwing toys out of the pram when a switch to a top club (given the multiplicity of suitors allegedly queuing up for his signature) was all but guaranteed.
Those less cynically-minded, however, may argue that is yet further evidence of our recruitment team’s thorough analysis of transfer targets that sees them carefully explore every aspect of their being from their level of potential synchronisation with the squad to the state of their character.
Arguably, Carvalho ticked the latter box after the January window drew to a close.
But what of the midfielder’s actual skillset?
Your bog-standard highlights reel can make any alleged transfer target look like the reincarnation of Pele, though a cursory glance at the No.28’s best bits for the Whites would more than hint at the starlet’s lack of qualms when it comes to taking on a man and pressuring high up the pitch.
As much was confirmed by former Liverpool man, Danny Murphy, who dissected the attacking midfielder’s contributions from a 4-1 defeat to league leaders Manchester City in the FA Cup.
“He played in like a No.10 position, what confidence he’s got for a young player though, loves the ball to his feet, got great balance with a nice low centre of gravity,” the 45-year-old told Match of the Day. “Especially in the first half, he was going to hunt the ball down, he was making things happen and this is him in a game against one of the best teams in Europe.”
A significant part of what has made Diaz such an instant hit on Merseyside has been the similarity with regards to the demands placed on Porto by Sergio Conceicao and those on Liverpool by Jurgen Klopp.
Whilst perhaps the similarities are not as crystal clear when it comes to Silva’s Fulham outfit, there are clear points one can refer to that suggest that Carvalho wouldn’t entirely be a fish out of water when placed in the Reds squad.
Fabio Carvalho creates chances, gets into decent goalscoring areas, carries the ball and presses. pic.twitter.com/qEEigvmS34
— Sam McGuire (@SamMcGuire90) April 7, 2022
4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formations have been commonplace at Craven Cottage, with the Portuguese head coach prioritising, in the words of The Athletic’s Peter Rutzler and Mark Carey, ‘constant movement and rotation’ with the goal being to ‘unbalance opponents’.
Sounds rather familiar!
“Without the ball, Silva prefers his teams to press passing lanes as opposed to players – in other words, he prefers his team to shut off passing options rather than close down players themselves,” the pair elaborated. “Silva’s teams do press high but not quite to the same extent of a Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp side.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find an exact carbon copy of the style favoured by Klopp at Liverpool, though we can certainly appreciate elements in Silva’s coaching and the demands placed on Carvalho that would theoretically allow him to adapt reasonably quickly to life in Merseyside.
A step up to the Premier League remains, still, a rather significant leap.
That being said, former teammate, Harvey Elliott, was quick to prove his doubters wrong this term following a superb season in the Championship, taking the Premier League by storm before an unfortunate ankle injury sidelined the No.67 for several months.
With there being a clear willingness to engage in pressing activities – and, critically, the nuanced act of closing down passing lanes as opposed to the near-unguided, rock and roll-style gegenpressing that materialised in the early stages of Klopp’s reign at Anfield – create chances and chip in with goals, however, we could yet be set to welcome another multi-faceted midfielder to our ranks in the summer.