Transfer Talk: Reds target Fabio can Carv open defences
Fulham look well-placed for an immediate return to the Premier League — but teenage starlet Fabio Carvalho looks destined for the top flight regardless of whether they achieve promotion or not.
The 19-year-old has emerged as one of the Championship’s most exciting talents after a fine breakthrough season for the Cottagers.
The England youth international reportedly has Premier League giants Liverpool keeping tabs, while West Ham and Arsenal are two other potential suitors.
Ahead of Fulham’s clash with Blackpool tomorrow, we turn the spotlight on the West Londoners' star man.
With Fulham heading towards relegation last season, Carvalho was given his first chance to impress at senior level.
The youngster was handed his Premier League debut against Chelsea before starting against Southampton soon after.
And despite a 3-1 defeat against the Saints, Carvalho marked his full debut with a fine finish off the underside of the bar.
That saw him keep his place in the starting XI for the remaining two games of the season against Manchester United and Newcastle — his performances providing a glimpse of what was to come.
Scott Parker, who oversaw the Cottagers' doomed campaign, tipped the Lisbon-born starlet for big things at the time.
He said: "We’ve seen his quality, we’ve seen him scoring and assisting at an Under-23s level but now he’s been around first-team players, he’s pushed on and done that as well.
"I don’t want to heap too much on Fabio because he’s still a young boy but the future’s bright for him and he’s someone that I really like and someone that I look forward to working with."
Time to shine
While Parker did not stick around to work with him, Carvalho has now made himself part of the furniture at Craven Cottage.
The likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Harry Wilson are two of the biggest names in the Championship — and the academy graduate is more than holding his own with them.
Diminutive attacking youngsters of Carvalho’s stature can often struggle with the physicality of England’s second tier but he is showing he can handle it.
Marco Silva has handed him 14 starts this campaign and only a two-month absence due to injury and coronavirus has prevented that total from being more.
Not only that, Carvalho already has the end product to go with his talents after scoring seven goals and registering three assists this term.
While he is currently helping Fulham race clear at the top of the Championship, Carvalho could be playing at an even higher level if recent speculation is to be believed.
Premier League giants Liverpool appear to be leading the way in the race to secure his services, though there are thought to be as many as a dozen clubs tracking the starlet.
The teenager’s contract with Fulham expires in the summer and while he would be free to leave the West Londoners, they would be due compensation.
Fulham boss Silva has outlined their plans to keep hold of him and their other top players.
He said on Carvalho’s potential exit last week: "Unfortunately for us as a club, this has happened more than once. We have to prevent this type of situation.
"I know that now football is different, some young players think in a different way as well.
"It’s not normal for it to happen so many times in the last few years for Fulham. The reality is we are talking about more players, not just Fabio."
Liverpool have shown their tendency to pick up gems from teams in the second tier having also signed Harvey Elliott from Fulham in 2019 and Kaide Gordon from Derby last year.
Their move for Elliott — who looks set to be part of the first-team picture when he returns from long-term injury — left some bad blood between the two clubs, so the Reds will have to tread carefully in their attempts to lure Carvalho.
Thanks to the capability the whizkid has already shown — and Jurgen Klopp’s proven willingness to bring youngsters through — you would assume he would arrive at Anfield and go straight into the first-team picture.
A Lion in wait?
Carvalho has represented England at U-16s, U-17s and U-18s level, so he could be a future Three Lion to watch.
While talks of a senior call-up are well down the line, you would be hard-pressed to find many 19-year-olds having a better season than Carvalho, so an U-21s call-up is surely not too far away.
Carvalho was born in Lisbon so qualifies to play for Portugal too, meaning he is set to be the subject of an international tug-of-war and England should act quickly if they want to keep hold of the talent.
It was reported earlier this season that the Portuguese FA are ready to fast-track Carvalho into their U-21s set-up in order to lure him away from England.
That plus the Premier League interest means we are set to hear a lot more about Carvalho in the coming months.