Fabio Silva: The 18-year-old with big shoes to fill

Just a matter of weeks ago the line from the Wolves hierarchy was that the club were taking it ‘step by step’ with regards to the progress of their big money summer signing, Fabio Silva. That may well go out of the window now with Raul Jimenez having suffered a sickening head injury against Arsenal on Sunday. People everywhere are now asking the question ‘Who is Fabio Silva?’

So, who is Fabio Silva?

The Early Years

Silva might be just 18-years-old but the world of professional football isn’t something that is new to him. His father, Jorge, played 18 seasons in the Portuguese leagues. His dad operated in a holding midfield role – as does his younger brother who plays for Boavista – and made two caps for the Portugal national side; one of those two coming against England in a 1-1 tie at Villa Park back in 2002.

It wouldn’t be the highlight of Jorge’s year though as just two months earlier, in July 2002, Fabio was born in Gondomar. His birth place was just a 10 minute drive from Porto’s Dragon Stadium. At age eight, Silva would join the club’s academy. Five years later he transferred to Benfica’s youth system but it didn’t take long for him to return to Porto. It was then, as a 15-year-old, that his promise really began to show.

The striker was deadly. In 26 appearances with the under 19 side Silva had 20 goals to his name whilst his assists tally wasn’t too shabby either. That earned him a senior call up and after six months around the first team squad his debut finally came.

Stepping up in senior football

His first appearance for Porto came as a late substitute in the 2019/20 season opener. Porto fell behind to Gil Vicente in the 77th minute and, almost immediately, Silva was introduced from the bench. He became the youngest player to represent the Portuguese giants in a league match but could do nothing to change the result. Porto lost 2-1. Fast forward nine days and a nine minute cameo at the end of a Europa League win over Young Boys saw another line in the history books for Silva; the youngest Porto player to appear in a European competition.

His first goal wouldn’t come until his sixth appearance. It is worth pointing out, however, that the youngster had only spent 44 minutes on the grass when he aggressively closed down Famalicao keeper Rafael Defendi to steal the ball and roll home for Porto’s third goal in a 3-0 victory. Can you guess what’s coming next? It made him the club’s youngest ever league scorer.

It would prove to be his only league goal of the season. His boss Sergio Conceicao managed the 17-year-old prospect with care. Despite only making 12 sub appearances – or 182 minutes – of league action and 34 minutes in the Europa League, Silva had shown his qualities. That is further supported by his two goals and an assist in three Taca de Portugal Placard matches.

Becoming Wolves’ record signing

In a transfer window that was expected to be reasonably low key owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, Wolves surprised a few with their £35m move for Silva. If Nuno Espirito Santo knows anything though, it’s the Portuguese market. The Wolves boss described his new signing as a ‘huge talent’. The intention though was always to slowly nurture that ability rather than thrust him into the bright lights of the Premier League.

With that option seemingly gone, Silva is surely going to get a run in the side. He clearly has the potential to be a good top level player but is it too soon? The proof will be in the pudding but evidence suggests the former Porto man will find it tough. So far this season, he’s played two full matches; one was an EFL Trophy match as part of the Wolves under 23’s where he scored twice and the other was during Wolves’ cup defeat at Championship side Stoke. His Premier League activity has been limited to sub appearances with just 114 minutes of action under his belt. Over an hour of that came at the Emirates after Jimenez was stretchered off.

It wasn’t long ago that Silva’s boss was speaking about how his starlet needed to adapt to the physical demands of English football with that game at Stoke cited as an example with Silva said to have ‘felt it’. Filling the sizeable void left by Jimenez will be an almighty challenge. Then again, getting thrown in at the deep end might prove a blessing in the long run.

Style of play

The first thing to note is that Silva for Jimenez is not a like for like switch. Silva, who stands a 6’1, is a couple of inches shorter than the man he’ll be filling in for and lacks the same physicality that the Mexican brings. He won’t lead the line in the same way. What the Portugal under 19 international does bring to the party though is great technique and link up play. He’s got good close control, can use both feet and is effective in the ‘give and go’ scenario.

His goal scoring exploits have only been displayed at youth level but he does have a calmness to his game. The Wolves coaching staff have him nailed down as a lad who will finish chances if they come his way.

Statistically speaking, it’s tough to judge him too much. He’s had such limited playing time, however, the numbers support our claims that he’s comfortable with the ball. He had a 79% pass completion in his year with Porto with 100% success where long balls were concerned. The latter statement is only based off two passes though so needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. His Premier League appearances with Wolves have offered similar figures. Silva has attempted 40 passes with an 82.5% completion rate and has created two chances, which is one every 58 minutes. The other thing that is worth noting is that Silva has attempted six shots from his 116 minutes of football in the top flight. Four have been blocked with the other two evenly split between on and off target efforts.

The Football Index stance

The good news for anyone investing in Fabio Silva is that he’s now Wolves’ only recognised fit striker. That means he’ll get minutes under his belt. Given how he likes to play the game, he might post some reasonable base PB numbers. We’re unconvinced he’ll be a reliable PB hold but all it will take is a couple of impressive performances early doors and his current price of £1.75 will soar.

With his youth and the hype around him combined with an opportunity to impress in a fluid attack with the like of Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence he is a safe mid to long term hold. Whether he goes beyond that remains to be seen.

There you have it, your guide to Fabio Silva.

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