Fabio Carvalho will formally join Liverpool in less than a week. It has been a long time coming for the Portugal Under-21s international after seeing a January transfer deadline day move to Anfield fail to be approved in time.
Fortunately that didn’t put a stop to the Reds’ interest, with them intending to send the forward back to Fulham on loan for the reminder of the season anyway. Jurgen Klopp was quite open when hinting a summer transfer would follow for the teenager instead when discussing the failed move back in February.
Sure enough, Liverpool and the Cottagers would agree to a £5 million compensation package for the soon-to-be-out-of-contract starlet, with add-ons potentially raising the worth of the agreement to £7.7 million. Carvalho will formally become a Red on Friday, July 1 when his contract with Fulham expires on June 30.
It’s understandable why Liverpool were interested in the Portuguese player; he is merely the most recent and brilliant prospect to come out of Fulham’s academy, joining players like Ryan Sessegnon and Harvey Elliott. And not just that, but because a pathway like that ensures that he would be eligible for Klopp’s team as a homegrown player once he turns 21.
After the Cottagers’ relegation was officially announced, he started up front against Southampton and scored on his full Premier League debut. He was a key player as they won the Championship last season, securing an immediate return to the English top flight. In 36 appearances, he recorded an impressive 10 goals and 8 assists, primarily playing behind the talented Aleksandar Mitrovic in the number 10 position for Marco Silva’s team.
Given the weight of the distraction, it is understandable that such stats did decline when his original move to Anfield failed, but he then came through when promotion and the title were on the line. Carvalho is now poised to step up and become one of Liverpool’s attacking options, joining the likes of Mohamed Salah, Luis Diaz, and £85 million Darwin Nunez, before the Reds report for preseason practice on July 4. A potential debut against Craven Cottage is scheduled for August 6.
While Roberto Firmino and fellow countryman Diogo Jota ensure that there are five players ahead of him in the hierarchy, Carvalho will get game time in the upcoming season once Divock Origi leaves just as Sadio Mane, with Takumi Minamino likely to follow. This season, substitutions are allowed across the board, so he will gain playing time as a result. He will, at the very least, try to fill the void left by the latter pair in the domestic cups as he seeks to establish himself at Anfield.
After all, one of Julian Ward’s first orders of business upon being named sporting director was to revamp Liverpool’s front line to accommodate life outside their usual front three. The 19-year-old is as essential to such a makeover as the signings of Diaz and Nunez since Salah, Mane, and Firmino are all approaching 30 and out of contract in 2023.
However, it is still unclear what role Klopp has in mind for Carvalho once he formally joins the Reds; the preseason will be the first opportunity for onlookers to watch the forward in action. Due to the German’s preference for a 4-3-3 formation, the role he excelled in with Fulham last season as a number 10 behind a striker hasn’t typically existed, which makes his coming even more intriguing.
He is obviously versatile despite playing attacking midfield for the majority of his professional football to date. While he did occasionally play in a deeper midfield position last season, his first three Premier League starts all came in different positions: upfront, on the right flank, and behind a striker.
However, he only played up front or on the wings in four of his 44 matches for Fulham. His arrival therefore raises the possibility of a formation change, as many have predicted for 2022–2023, or a reinvention in a new capacity, both of which Klopp is experienced with.
Following the signing of Nunez, there has been talk that he might return to the 4-2-3-1 formation that worked so well for him at Borussia Dortmund. In this formation, Firmino could be reintroduced to his starting lineup as an attacking midfielder, protecting midfielders like Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, while Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold could continue to thrive in their roles on the wings.
The Portuguese, meanwhile, offers the chance to reinvent himself in a new role in the front three or even serve as an offensive number eight in a 4-3-3 formation, scoring goals from midfield that have been lacking in the past. Of course, it is what Klopp initially did to Firmino, transforming him from striker no. 10 to false striker no. 9, while Elliott, a fellow Fulham academy graduate, underwent a different change from right flank to center midfield.
One of the reasons the 19-year-old is such an exciting signing is that his youth and adaptability offer so many possibilities, and his arrival into the team gives Liverpool a sense of uncertainty for the upcoming season. The Reds’ long-standing experience with the advantages and disadvantages of having an impenetrable front three shows how the team is trying to develop.
Carvalho’s transfer still provides a glimpse into the future at Anfield as Liverpool bosses determine the club’s next steps into an uncharted new world beyond Salah, Mane, and Firmino, even though he won’t be expected to make an immediate impact on Klopp’s starting XI as he would need to be given some time to settle in.