Jurgen Klopp previews Nottingham Forest clash
All is well at Anfield. The Tottenham controversy last month aside, Liverpool have started the season strongly with 20 points from 27 in the Premier League and three wins from three in the Europa League group stages. They can also reach the Carabao Cup quarter-finals next week if they beat Bournemouth away from home.
But despite all the positives for Jurgen Klopp right now, the German tactician has a problem quietly creeping up on him. That problem is with Fabio Carvalho, whose loan at RB Leipzig has so far been unproductive – perhaps even less productive than his first season at Liverpool.
The Portuguese attacking midfielder struggled for minutes in his first season on Merseyside, racking up just 638 (the equivalent of seven full matches) despite scoring three goals. He started just six of Liverpool’s 51 games all year. Yet Klopp said in April that Carvalho was training “exceptionally” and added in May: “No player has impressed me more than Fabio.
“His work ethic will give him a fantastic career because he trained getting nothing. If I don’t play him or bring him in the squad, it’s about the player and how he reacts. And his reactions in a row, I never saw before. Unbelievable.”
Former Fulham youth talent Carvalho was sent out on loan to the Bundesliga for the season with the aim of getting consistent minutes and returning to Liverpool a better player. But he has started just twice in 13 Leipzig matches and has been an unused substitute in three of the last four.
That is a real problem for Klopp and co if it continues. A second season as a benchwarmer would delay the 21-year-old’s development and likely force the need for another year out on loan in 2024-25. Liverpool are claimed to have a recall clause in the deal that is active in the January transfer window and it is one they will be giving serious thought to exercising in the current circumstances.
The problem is that Leipzig are understood to have paid a fee to sign Carvalho temporarily and so cutting the deal short will require negotiation. It is not as cut and dry as simply informing Leipzig the loan is being terminated. And the Germans are unlikely to want to leave themselves short as they dream of competing for honours in the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal and Champions League.
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Even if Liverpool were able to get the player out of Saxony, they would then need to find him another club where he can play regularly. The Reds have a strong relationship with Red Bull and Leipzig had long-term interest in Carvalho and yet he is still yet to play regularly. That speaks to how difficult it can be to get a player to the right club.
Ironically, Carvalho is actually being outshone by another Leipzig loanee Xavi Simons – from PSG – who has four goals and five assists from 13 games. But Klopp and the Liverpool hierarchy will be keeping a close eye on whether their man’s situation changes at all in the coming weeks and months.
The Premier League giants still very much see a future for the 21-year-old, who isn’t 22 until next August, at the club. So they should, too. But if he wants his Anfield career to truly get underway next season, Carvalho must surely start getting more minutes in the Bundesliga. It is a headache for Klopp and his bosses the longer he’s out on the fringes.
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