Ryan Sessegnon, Harvey Elliott, Chris Smalling and now Fabio Carvalho – the list of Fulham Academy graduates who have garnered the attention from some of the Premier League’s biggest clubs over the years is impressive.
Much has been made of Carvalho’s failed move to Liverpool in the January transfer window, a deal that only fell apart at the last minute due to the Football League not having any deal sheets for the agreement to loan him back to the Cottagers for the remainder of the season.
With seven goals, five assists and the discernible air of grace he’s shown in the Championship this season, it’s no wonder the 19-year-old playmaker has also reportedly piqued the interest of Manchester United in the last few days..
The aborted Anfield move means Carvalho will become a free agent this summer with Fulham finding themselves in the inevitable position of having missed the opportunity to cash in on the player in January.
The loss of Carvalho also poses a problem for head coach Marco Silva next season should they reach the Premier League. The attacker, who was born in Portugal but represents England at youth level, has become an integral member of this flying Fulham side who are chasing records this season.
In their recent FA Cup game against Premier League champions Manchester City at the Etihad, Fulham performed admirably in the face of significant adversity with Carvalho scoring the unlikely opener and going on to have a solid game despite Fulham losing 4-1.
After watching his side beat Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage, Huddersfield Town boss Carlos Corberan described the game against City as like “watching a Premier League match” – a nod to Fulham’s great form which has largely been underpinned by the performances of Carvalho.
In the matchday programme for the Huddersfield game, Fulham owner Shahid Khan assured fans letting Fabio leave in January was never part of his plan.
“We did receive a lot of interest in Fabio Carvalho, but he wasn’t going anywhere in the last window. We are targeting promotion and Fabio is very much part of that plan and we can see that he too is committed to that aim, regardless of what his future might look like after this season.”
Against Peterborough, a game where Aleksandar Mitrovic became the first player to score 32 goals in a Championship season, Carvalho once again showed the flashes of brilliance that underlines what a special talent he is.
He was instrumental in the build-up to Fulham’s second goal where his intricate midfield play fed Neeskens Kebano to set-up Mitrovic’s side-footed volley while later in the game, a mazy run on the edge of the Peterborough box saw him glide past defenders and hit a left-footed shot that was only denied by a great save from Posh keeper Steven Benda.
While some players in his situation may have had their heads turned by the Premier League attention, Carvalho’s unrelenting commitment to his team-mates points towards a professionalism and work ethic beyond his years.
Whether that is down to his own determination to impress potential suitors or his genuine respect for the club, only he will know but nevertheless, he continues to impress and remains one of the first names on the team sheet.
As mentioned, Fulham have a habit of producing fine English talent from their youth academy at Motspur Park with the most recent and relevant case to Carvalho’s being Harvey Elliott.
Signed by Fulham’s academy at U18 level and becoming the youngest ever Premier League player in 2019 at the age of 16 years and 30 days, Elliott signed for Liverpool a few months later and forced himself into Jurgen Klopp’s squad this year, before picking up a nasty ankle injury.
Another distinguished alumnus of the Fulham academy, Ryan Sessegnon, won five awards in the 2017/2018 season when he was named Championship Player of the Season, Young Player of the Season and Apprentice of the Year as well as being named in the Team of the Season and EFL Club Developed XI.
Like Carvalho, his stellar Championship form turned several Premier League heads and he subsequently signed for Tottenham Hotspur in August 2019.
If Carvalho is destined for Liverpool, which looks likely as talks between the two clubs are ongoing, he will need to be prepared for a big step in physicality and quality.
It took the entirety of Jose Mourinho’s tenure for Sessegnon to look the part for Spurs and only now, under Antonio Conte, the 21-year-old is beginning to see consistent game time.
As for Fulham, providing they do make it to the Premier League next season, the departure of their latest wonderkid will be a significant blow for their chances of staying up if the deal doesn’t include a loan-back agreement.
It will be tough for Silva to fill the void left by such a dynamic and skilful attacking midfielder, but one is certain, Carvalho is only the latest special talent to come off the Motspur Park production line…