June 7, 2023

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Carvalho asked for it in British football. And then he chose between Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United

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Unearthing a young top is no easy task. Scouts travel the world to find young diamonds and convert them into millions in revenue. And what is the chance that one of the best youngsters will knock on the door himself?

In 2013, a Portuguese child took his mother to Clapham Common, a park in south London where a group of soccer players were training. The boy’s family had just moved from Lisbon and could hardly speak English. The knowledge of the language was enough for the young man only for one question: “Can I play?”

The Portuguese child turned out to be Fabio Carvalho.

The boy is lucky. The players who ran at Clapham represented a newly formed club. At the helm of the project were manager Greg Cruttwell and senior team coach Ollie Kanner.

“Out of nowhere, a child appeared who wanted to play. I explained that the team can’t pick up a man from the street – a review is needed – but turned to Greg and said: “I’ll kick the ball to the kid, let’s see what he can do,” Kanner recalls in an interview with the Daily Mail.

Ollie kicked the ball higher. Carvalho did not lose his head: he took it with his chest, lowered it, distributed over 60 false swings and passed to the coach.

“We looked at each other. The jaws remained on the lawn. We realized in half a minute that we had met a unique child. We noticed something special – not only in terms of play, but also in terms of personality, ”says Cruttwell.

“Fabio charges partners, smiles, shares happiness, magic. We worked with strong players and high standards, but Carvalho did not let us down. Looked too cool.

The lawn in Clapham was not of good quality. Even on a meager field, Fabio showed agility, balance and a powerful set of skills,” Greg finishes.

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Carvalho came to England with a football background. Before leaving Portugal, Fabio went to the Benfica sports school. In Lisbon, the future winger received a powerful base.

Carvalho quickly earned a debut contract and got great reviews. Since 2013, the first club of the Portuguese managed to be renamed Bolham, and Fabio went upstairs.

First, Carvalho ended up at Fulham, where he dealt 10+8 in the 21/22 Championship and helped with promotion to the Premier League. After a year of confident play, Fabio knocked out a dream offer from Liverpool. The 19-year-old winger could have moved to Anfield in the winter if the transfer had not fallen through, and Craven Cottage did not dream of another couple of months with a top youngster.

Carvalho has been attracting top clubs for years. Cruttwell recalls that the first interest from the elite side came after a couple of powerful performances at junior tournaments.

“Fabio did not run for the team for a year, when he turned into the main topic for communication between the scouts. Carvalho slipped from the flank into the penalty area with one slave and wound up 19-year-old guys at 13, ”admires Greg.

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Fulham were first in the race for Carvalho. The capital club beat several serious competitors. Interest in Fabio made life difficult for the family. The footballer’s parents spoke little English, so they delegated negotiations to Cruttwell and Kanner. The coaches quickly realized that they could not do without an interpreter. Rescued by Pedra Soares, who coached the goalkeepers of Bolham.

“Fabio’s parents found out that a Portuguese coach was working at the club and invited him to negotiate. I have facilitated contact between the family and third parties. He even got a temporary nickname – “Jose Mourinho”! ”Soares recalls.

“Pedro played a key role. With a language barrier, the process would have been more difficult. We felt the importance of Soares after the first calls from serious clubs. Our task was to protect the player,” says Kanner.

The pool of contenders included Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. The Stamford Bridge club saw itself as the favourite. Emirates neighbors invited Fabio to the training center for a tryout.

Manchester United is up and running. Cruttwell recalls that club representatives flew in to negotiate with Carvalho by helicopter.

Chelsea and Arsenal were eager to take Fabio, but Manchester United people literally landed in the middle of the local school for negotiations. Everyone was watching Carvalho,” says Greg.

You can read notes on Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and other teams in my telegram channel 

The capital teams of the Portuguese were not impressed, especially since they resorted to dirty tactics.

“The Chelsea people wanted to build trust with the family. For example, they held out a paper and offered to “just sign to resolve the issue.” We were confused. The Londoners offered Fabio almost a dream life: a transfer to the training center, free boots. Club representatives thought they had a deal, but they didn’t take us into account,” says Kanner.

“I felt awkward. Chelsea representatives were surprised that several people joined the negotiations. I translated. Fabio’s parents wanted serious training and a long contract for their son. The club offered other conditions,” says Soares.

Not impressed with Carvalho and Arsenal. Soares recalls: “We came to the base with my father as well. People from the club were supposed to pick us up by car, but in the end they offered to take the metro. Fabio switched off on the train because he was tired from the road, and at the screening he performed at a fifth of his potential.

Negotiations began at the Arsenal base. The club emphasized that it was not ready to sign a contract with Carvalho without additional review. Fabio’s father rebelled: he shouted that a line of clubs lined up behind his son, which guarantee an agreement. Communication failed.

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The initiative passed to Fulham. Cruttwell believes that the Carvalho family was influenced by the club’s long history of youth development.

Fulham offered ideal conditions. Balham established a partnership with the club. I know the head of student development, Hugh Jennings, who brought Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Luke Shaw to Southampton. In the capital, the specialist worked with Ryan Sessegnon and Harvey Elliot,” says Greg.

The Carvalho family was convinced that on the one hand, Fulham works with youth, on the other hand, it provides minutes in the adult team. Kanner and Soares are confident that the London club was helped by a smart approach to negotiations.

“Fulham’s principles were impressive. The club made neat, pleasant gestures,” says Kanner. “The Carvalho family was offered a whole business plan that included studying and moving,” Soares clarifies.

Fabio’s parents signed a unique contract. The price of the transfer remained unknown, but Fulham guaranteed Balham royalties on future transfers. Liverpool paid five million pounds for Carvalho, with another £2.7m listed as bonuses. The first club of the winger will direct the income to a personal stadium.

“Wherever Carvalho goes in the future, Balham will receive dividends. The deal went great. We live in difficult conditions, without a clear platform. We will return the proceeds from Fabio’s transfer to the club. We look forward to support with the stadium,” explains Cruttwell.

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At Fulham, Carvalho flourished thanks to Jennings and youth coach Colin Omogbein. After the transfer to Liverpool, the coach posted a farewell post, which included joint photos and a story of acquaintance with Fabio.

“I worked overtime to convince Carvalho, the family and the Balham representatives of the comfort of our conditions. Everyone who participated in the negotiations came to sign the contract. Fabio’s professional path has begun,” wrote Omogbein.

“The situation is unique. I opened Fabio as a scout and then brought him to the senior team as a coach. With admiration, he followed each new height, which Carvalho mastered in a beautiful style and with wild dedication. Time at Fulham has come to an end, but character and quality will be remembered. Good luck,” Colin added.

Cruttwell, Kanner and Soares remain in contact with Carvalho. Fabio invited the first coaches to the match with Preston, as a result of which Fulham returned to the Premier League. The coaches cheered along with the player, and then they heard a simple message: “See you at Anfield.”

Cruttwell saw Carvalho play in the Premier League in 20/21. Fabio scored against Southampton on his Fulham debut. Friendship is reinforced by the player’s relationship with Bolham.

“Carvalho is extremely busy, so we just correspond. Fabio comes to Bolham matches. The older brother in the family also played for the team. We are grateful for the time in the club. We have established an eternal bond. I would be happy to watch the pupil at Liverpool,” said Cruttwell.

Stronger than the rest, Soares became close to the Portuguese family. One weekend, the coach received a sudden call from the Carvalho family.

“Every year Fabio’s parents asked for advice on their son’s career at Fulham. The new cause turned out to be an injury,” shares Pedro.

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A new stage for Carvalho is associated with Liverpool. Fulham was known as a scoring team, but only by the standards of the Championship. Ahead is a career segment with colleagues like Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz.

Doubts fly around Carvalho: will he break into the base with such high competition? Maybe Fabio should have stayed at Fulham for the sake of personal development? Cruttwell is convinced that powerful partners will only spur the Portuguese to progress.

“At Fulham, Fabio always found space. I respect the capital team, but the partners did not always match. Liverpool players will pass to Carvalho more often, turn the Portuguese into a sharper player.

I assume that Fabio will successfully fit into the plans of Jurgen Klopp. Carvalho is a down to earth person with an incredible approach to business. He can deal with pressure, with pressure – too. According to his personal type, he can replace Roberto Firmino, ”Crattwell believes.

Kanner agrees: “Fabio fits in with Liverpool’s DNA. I don’t think that competition with Salah and Diaz will knock Carvalho down. On the contrary, I expect only positive.

“Working with world-class players will only help. Liverpool give youngsters time – remember Harvey Elliot. I think Carvalho will immediately get into the adult team. Fabio is not afraid of cameras. On the contrary, it starts from the attention from the outside, ”Kanner is sure.

“Carvalho’s personality fits the needs of the new club. I would compare Fabio with Philippe Coutinho – they are somewhat similar. I think that our pupil will surpass the Brazilian. I remember hearing about the goal of winning the Ballon d’Or. I’m sure it will,” says Soares.

“Carvalho emphasizes modesty. Fabio still perceives himself as a child who timidly approached the players in the middle of a London park. The Portuguese also has wonderful parents.

Fabio only wants to play football. I don’t think Carvalho will change at Liverpool, adds Cruttwell.

It doesn’t matter where Carvalho’s career takes him. Representatives of “Bolham” will remember Fabio for the time in his personal club. And also – by how the talent was discovered.

“These stories are shared in pubs. It came out unusual. Here I am standing near the underground in Clapham. And now I’m giving a lap of honor at the Fulham stadium. I hope the best is yet to come,” smiles Soares.