It has been a story that has moved at a pace slower than Andy Carroll’s recoveries from injury: William Carvalho’s most speculated transfer to West Ham.
Obviously the situation was going to be a complicated one, not only for Carvalho being a player long destined for a Premier League move (albeit, in fairness, to Arsenal years ago), but also with his current Sporting Lisbon side in the Champions League playoffs.
Now Carvalho hasn’t been in the Sporting matchday squad for any of their games this season, including their now successful tie against Steaua Bucharest last Tuesday and Wednesday, leading many to believe that the deal would have occurred already. But with the Liga NOS giants seeing if they will indeed get into the prestigious UCL group stages, carrying an extra $14 million for the club if they advance, their presence in the world’s premiere club competition has still complicated the matters.
Sporting want nothing less than the price of the Portuguese international’s buyout cause, which is a shade under 40 million pounds. That would easily make Carvalho the new club record signing, passing the new mark set this summer by Marko Arnautovic after Andre Ayew got the honor last offseason. But Carvalho, despite becoming a full regular for his country and developing at a decent rate at Sporting since arriving there as a 13-year-old, is simply not worth 40 million pounds, even in this “post-Neymar to PSG bonkers era of spending” we are in now. It is a sentiment that both Slaven Bilic and the two owning Davids feel at the moment.
West Ham are still refusing to fully buckle under Sporting’s price demands for Carvalho, and it could seriously turn into a blessing in disguise, despite the towering midfielder still favored to be at the London Stadium at the end of the transfer window. Instead, the Hammers have wisely been putting pressure on Sporting by having a Plan B if they aren’t able to obtain Carvalho. And that Plan B would be, in all honesty, better than Plan A.
That backup option is fittingly at one of Sporting’s bitter rivals, FC Porto. And that option is Carvalho’s national teammate and sometimes central midfield partner Danilo Pereira.
Although his statue and potential have long given him comparisons to Patrick Vieira, and why Arsene Wenger at one point four years ago thought he could be a new generation’s Vieira for the club, Carvalho just has not developed into that world class dynamic two way force most thought he would. That isn’t to say that he doesn’t still have qualities, nor wouldn’t be a good, needed signing for a West Ham side in need of primarily defensive midfielders.
Both Pedro Obiang and captain Mark Noble, despite their work ethic and willingness to be ubiquitous on the field, couldn’t destroy opposition attacks consistently even on their best defensive days. Cheikhou Kouyate meanwhile has the physical attributes and destroyer’s ability, but would rather be a box to box, all-around driving force than staying in front of the centerbacks for a majority of the match. The Senegal captain also is a mediocre passer to say the least. Without a doubt, if signed, Carvalho would be the club’s best midfield attack destroyer, while having the ability to disturb the simple but important balls to begin a series of possession.
But Carvalho just does not have the combination of pace and energetic tenacity of a top class destroyer, nor the ability to be a deep lying playmaker capable of producing cutting edge passes from the midfield. He is a holding midfielder that doesn’t desire to make deep runs into the opposition’s box, and does have questions about his motor.
There are no questions about the engine that is Danilo. Although he certainly did not get the hype that Carvalho did four years ago, or at any point in the youth stages of their careers, Danilo has not only caught up to his fellow 25-year-old midfield counterpart Carvalho, but surpassed him in my eyes. Although he isn’t as solid with his simple side passing and sagacity to keep the ball or start an attack as Carvalho is, Danilo has all the other attributes that make him superior to Carvalho in my mind.
Danilo desires to go forward and be a goal scorer unlike Carvalho. And that shows in how much faster he is than his Sporting friend and rival. Danilo is also capable of beating defenders off the dribble, something Carvalho does on the rare occasion, and he likes to move around the field instead of stay predominantly in the middle. In addition, his superior athleticism allows him to be a better tackler than Carvalho, who can be very clumsy sometimes with his challenges.
This isn’t to say Carvalho isn’t a good talent. Again, he is a better passer by a decent bit than Danilo, without ever being mistaken for a Vieira or Andrea Pirlo at the holding midfielder spot with consistent deep lying playing ability. He does look to provide a long diagonal ball here there and can produce some decent deliveries, but isn’t at the level of those two legendary holding midfielders and current New York City FC towering figures.
Carvalho isn’t even the underrated Steven N’Zonzi of Sevilla, who is truly more of a branch off the New York City manager’s playing style tree than Carvalho has been in his years at Sporting thus far.
Unfortunately, Danilo’s release clause from Porto is the same price as Carvalho’s is for Sporting. To get either of these two quarter-century aged, Portuguese midfield talents, Bilic and the Davids would have to shell out the biggest they have ever spent, in a summer where they have already been ambitious with their cash.
And although they would still get a very decent player in Carvalho, if they are to get him as expected, sometimes a Plan B turns out to be better than a Plan A.