The central midfielder has been consistently linked with clubs of the ilk of Manchester United and Real Madrid since bursting onto the Sporting scene this season and was handed the perfect chance to live up to the hype during his maiden World Cup appearance for Portugal against USA last night.
Replacing Andre Almeida at half-time, with Miguel Veloso shifting to left-back, Carvalho impressed as Portugal struggled to a 2-2 draw that keeps their qualification hopes hanging by a thread.
Still in possession of just a handful of international caps, Carvalho’s performance suggested that he could be capable of making the step up to a higher level, justifying the hype that has seen him become a fixture in the transfer gossip columns since the turn of the year.
The 22-year-old completed 97% of his passes over the second half, misplacing just one. These saw him spray the ball from side to side well, shown on the pass map above, proving a more dynamic option than Veloso.
Of Portuguese outfield players to have featured in the World Cup so far, only centre-backs Bruno Alves and Pepe have longer average pass lengths than Carvalho; an impressive statistic given his 97% pass success and one that has proved key to launching quick attacks for a side with pace going forward in the form of Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Anchoring the midfield at the heart of Portugal’s central diamond, Real Madrid and Manchester United target Carvalho added the bite that Veloso lacked.
While Veloso was tidy enough in possession during his 45 minutes of midfield action, making all of his attempted tackles, Carvalho added a physical presence to the midfield that his compatriot couldn’t.
Veloso made just one first-half tackle, Carvalho made three while two further incidents saw Carvalho win his side free-kicks.
Carvalho completed as many tackles in his 45 minutes of action as Veloso has managed in 155 minutes and he made more than any other player on the pitch last night – in spite of playing only half the game.
The World Cup often sees a player catapulted into the big time and make a name for themselves and Carvalho could be on the cusp of joining Joel Campbell and Divock Origi in earning himself a shot at the Premier League or La Liga this summer.
Having performed so well from the bench against USA, Carvalho will be optimistic of being given the opportunity to impress from the start of Portugal’s all-important final group game with Ghana on Thursday.
Should he do so, then his stock could rise further. If he were to sustain his second-half cameo from Sunday over a whole game, admittedly a big if, then Carvalho would further enhance his credentials to any potential suitors, having made more tackles and passes than both his potential rivals for the role – Veloso and Raul Meireles – when his performance is extrapolated to 90 minutes.
Paulo Bento is yet to find the right player for the base of his midfield at the World Cup but the stats suggest Carvalho could be that man, giving the Portuguese boss a selection headache ahead of their make or break final game.