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Liverpool have confirmed the £8 million signing of Fulham’s exciting youngster Fabio Carvalho as the push to halt Manchester City’s Premier League domination continues.
Carvalho’s arrival at Anfield from July 1 is no secret. Liverpool agreed terms for the 19-year-old on transfer deadline day in January. They were unable to process the paperwork to conclude the signing in time to make him a Liverpool player then, but negotiations continued and the Anfield club have now completed the formalities.
Carvalho will join for an initial £5 million, further strengthening Liverpool’s attacking line which has evolved during the course of this season.
Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are the senior strikers who for the first few years of their partnership, when fit, had no real competition to their starting status.
That began to change when Diogo Jota arrived in the summer of 2020, and Klopp’s options were further strengthened by Luis Diaz in January. Diaz has since become a first choice pick after a brilliant start to his Anfield career.
Carvalho - who is versatile enough to play in attack or a deeper midfield role - arrives with Liverpool with an eye on the long-term as much as next season’s title bid, and the club needed more offensive options following Divock Origi’s imminent departure on a free transfer. Salah, Mane and Firmino are all out of contract at the same time in 2023. It is inconceivable all will leave together, but talks to prolong their deals have been protracted. Some kind of resolution is anticipated when conversations resume after next weekend’s Champions League final.
Aside from Carvalho, Liverpool say discussions about the make-up of the squad for 2022-23 are on hold until after next weekend’s showdown with Real Madrid.
There are several players such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Takumi Minamino who have been understudies for most of the season. They would be expected to attract interest should they seek more game time elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara has undergone a scan on the Achilles injury which is threatening to rule him out of the Champions League final and reported no major damage.
Although it is a relief to the player and club that the injury is not too serious, it is still going to require a swift recovery for him to be available to face Real Madrid in Paris.
Thiago had to be subbed at half-time of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday. With the final only five days away, it is going to be difficult for the 31-year-old to make the starting line-up.
Liverpool will obviously give their playmaker every chance because it will be a significant setback if he cannot feature. Manager Jurgen Klopp’s midfield options are further complicated by Fabinho’s hamstring injury.
He too is undergoing intensive treatment ahead of the final. Despite initial optimism about his chances, he would probably not be risked but for the fact it is such an important game and the last of a gruelling season. Fabinho will rejoin training later this week for the first, significant fitness test.
It is at least helpful to Klopp that five substitutes are allowed in the Champions League final. That means if he takes a chance on Thiago and Fabinho, he can at least make an immediate change if it backfires. It is unlikely he would do so with two starting midfielders, however.
Analysis: How Carvalho's talent was there for all to see at Fulham
By Mike McGrath
On the training pitches of Motspur Park, Fulham’s academy players can often be found watching first-team sessions, or being asked to join in. This was the introduction Fabio Carvalho had to men’s football.
It was also Harrison Reed’s first sighting of the teenager who has since made such an impression on the Championship that Liverpool wanted to sign him.
When players arrived for training the morning after Carvalho almost moved to Anfield in January, there was some light-hearted joshing at his attempt to seal the deal. According to midfielder Reed, the positive culture in the dressing room ensured disappointment could be taken with a smile.
“It was a long day for him and he looked a bit tired, but he was there with a smile on his face," Reed says. “There were a few jokes being cracked but he was fine. The plan was for him to be here all the time anyway, so he’ll be focused.”
It was obvious to all concerned that Carvalho would not have to wait long to enjoy a more protracted stay at the top level.
Reed, for one, believes he has earned his chance. He has seen the 19-year-old flourish after breaking into the team, scoring eight goals and providing 10 assists in the Championship last season – and observes that he is merely the latest beneficiary of a system that has produced Harvey Elliott, another who ended up at Anfield.
“The club is set up with a pathway to the first team,” Reed says. “You see the first-team squad every day and, for them, it is great to see the pathway. They are walking by and watching sessions to see what it takes to be there. It takes managers to trust them, too.
“You could see that when Fabio came in to train with the first team – he did it with confidence. He wasn’t playing within himself. He would express himself and do what he did in the Under-23s.
“He has that awareness to get players on the back foot, to try flicks and get the ball on the other side of the player. He did that from day one and he has grown ever since.
“Fabio is one that we talk about but there are many others that can be just as good and have a very bright future. They are not just on the fringes. Fabio has become a really important player for us.”