After some promising months early in the season for Liverpool, Fábio Carvalho has been fairly absent from the first-team since the turn of the year. But against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu, Jürgen Klopp gave him a rare appearance in one of football’s most sacred stadiums.
Carvalho came into overtime with the game. But despite not staying on the pitch for long, even the experience of being on the field against Real Madrid was an important moment in his career considering he played against opponents like Luton in the league last season .
But that undeniably positive moment was turned into a negative as some on social media went so far as to claim Klopp was “demoralizing” by using Carvalho so late in the game.
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A poll by SPORTbible urged people to give their verdict on Carvalho’s late substitution, with a large majority voting for the Liverpool manager’s gesture to be demoralizing.
However, given the context, this is somewhat unfair. Last month, Klopp was asked about Carvalho’s exile and he praised the Portugal U21 international, calling him a “great talent” with a “long career” ahead of him.
“Fabio is a very young player and a great talent,” said the Reds coach. “He played well for us in a couple of games. Now the situation is that we have to make a squad and he couldn’t make the last one. That’s how it is.”
“He didn’t play too much because I think we needed different skills when we started or changed during games. That’s pretty much it.”
“He didn’t do anything wrong. He’s improved and developed a lot. He’s a good boy and he’s in the middle of the group and the team and that’s all right.”
“Obviously he’s not in a happy place at the moment,” added Klopp. “You don’t see that on the pitch or when I see him. It’s not really obvious but I imagine he wants to play because he’s a footballer and he hasn’t played often enough.”
“It can’t help much but it’s another thing in a long career that you have to go through. It looks to me at the moment that he’s embracing it as best he can.”
Jurgen Klopp has been unfairly criticized for a Liverpool decision against Real Madrid. (Image: Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Since then, Carvalho’s fate appears to have changed. It wasn’t just the Real Madrid game that saw him come on as a late substitute, Klopp also used him against Bournemouth in the final stages of the game in what was his first Premier League appearance since the start of the new year.
Previously, Carvalho had only played in one game for Liverpool’s first-team in 2023 against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup before his two short spells. That he’s now coming on and being used on the pitch is a positive turn and means he’s clearly doing something right to earn Klopp’s favour.
As Klopp pointed out, Carvalho is still a very young player and it’s not uncommon for signings at Anfield to take a season to really get going under the Liverpool boss. Kostas Tsimikas barely played in his first season at the club but has since become a vital part of Liverpool’s squad.
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At his age, despite his limited minutes on the pitch, Carvalho has already had plenty of promising moments at Liverpool. Three goals, including a dramatic winner against Newcastle United and one against Manchester City, is not a bad tally for Liverpool in just 631 minutes so far.
Giving him his moment at the Bernabéu was Klopp’s way of giving him a taste of what’s to come. Carvalho still very much represents the future for Liverpool and he will prove that in the years to come. His isolation, as Klopp himself pointed out, is only part of his learning curve and development as a senior footballer.
And let’s be clear, there’s nothing demoralizing about playing for Liverpool Football Club. Even if it’s just for a millisecond.