Fabio Carvalho has become a firm favourite with the Craven Cottage fans this term, having broken into the first team superb in the closing stages last season. The England youth international has produced dazzling displays using his enigmatic flair to score seven goals and contribute five assists in nineteen games as Fulham top the Championship table, leaving Liverpool scrambling for his signature on deadline day, although the deal ultimately fell through. However, what were the contributing factors behind the breakdown of his transfer, and what could we see next for the young starlet?
Fulham refused to enter negotiations for Fabio Carvalho, whose deal expires at the end of the current season, until the final day of the January transfer window. When the Whites were finally brought to the table, they baulked at Liverpool’s meagre offer, which reportedly amounted to around £5 million for one of the country’s hottest young talents. However, reports emerged shortly before 11pm that sunk the hearts of Fulham fans the world over. The club had accepted a bid of £8 million, including add-ons, with a loan-back for the remainder of the season and a sell-on clause, leaving Carvalho to negotiate the terms of the Reds’ proposed 5-year contract.
However, as the deadline passed, reports emerged of the deal collapsing – whilst Fulham still managed to facilitate the loan of Neco Williams from Liverpool. This led to mass celebrations on social media. Most news outlets stated that the deal was prevented due to a lack of time, with the Premier League’s two-hour deadline extension from submitting a deal sheet not applicable for English Football League sides. However, there were also rumours of Fabio experiencing ‘cold feet‘ over whether Liverpool is indeed the correct team for him.
So, why did Fulham accept the bid from Liverpool in the first place? Relationships fractured between the two clubs following the debacle with Harvey Elliott, with Fulham demanding £10 million plus add-ons for their prized asset but Liverpool offering just £850,000. Thus, the London side were forced into court to obtain a better price, eventually settling for £1.7 million, which rises to £4.3 million after 100 Liverpool caps and an England cap, with a 20 per cent sell-on clause at a tribunal. This would have undoubtedly have hurt the staff at Motspur Park, who had nurtured one of England’s most promising young talents from an early age and provided him with a route into the first team only to be ‘stolen’ for a pittance.
Whilst relations were supposedly patched up via the generous structuring of the deal for Harry Wilson, who Fulham do not have to pay any of the £12 million fee for until next season in order to avoid breaching FFP regulation, perhaps Fuham agreed a deal simply to prevent deja vu.
However, the negotiations may not be all they seem on the surface. One of the considered factors for tribunals, a procedure to compensate a club when a player aged 23 and under moves clubs at the end of their contract in order to cover ‘player development’ costs rather than the famed Bosman system, is the ‘sustained interest shown by other clubs in acquiring the player’s registration‘. Thus, the Fulham hierarchy may have cleverly forced Liverpool to show their hand as they have already stated that they value Carvalho at least £8 million.
Furthermore, another contributing factor in the player value decision-making process is the terms of new contracts offered by both clubs. So, whilst Carvalho may have rejected multiple contracts from the Cottagers, if they are deemed lucrative in contrast to the average for a player of his age in the Championship, this may work in the club’s favour at a tribunal – especially if Liverpool outbid Fulham’s contract offers.
Therefore, the Whites may be able to argue that they should receive a minimum of £8 million at a tribunal, with the possibility of contending for an even greater amount – particularly if his form should continue until the end of the season. Following his performance at Manchester City, where he was undoubtedly a shining star in a difficult game, there is little doubt for otherwise.
However, should Carvalho opt to join a non-UK based side in the summer, Fulham could miss out almost entirely on any considerable value. This is because as per FIFA rules, should a ‘home-grown’ talent leave the UK for the continent, the compensation is capped at a measly £500,000.
For Fulham, this is deemed a risk worth taking. Carvalho is a key player in Marco Silva’s side as the Portuguese manager pushes the Whites towards the Premier League. Should Fabio continue his form and help fire the club to promotion, the financial rewards of competing in the top division are far greater than what the club could currently gain or lose from his departure – no matter if he joins a rival English team or one in the continent. This is because finishing bottom in the Premier League in 2018/19 was worth £90 million in broadcast revenue, whilst winning the Championship in the same season was worth just £8 million.
Therefore, not only was this an opportunity for Fulham to one-up Liverpool to dispel previous grievances, but it was also an opportunity to keep a prized asset and key player for at least 6 months longer whilst still financially benefits no matter what the outcome at the end of this period. Pretty smart business, eh?