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A few weeks before the 2018 FIFA world cup, Cristiano Ronaldo was unsurprisingly the main topic of conversation as pundits talked football on Portuguese news channel SIC Noticias.
While discussing his position on the pitch, Sporting CP legend Manuel Fernandes, who was working at the time as the club’s scouting director, threw another name into the conversation out of the blue.
“When Ronaldo was 17, he played as a centre-forward for Sporting’s youth teams. I saw him doing things that I’m now seeing a boy from FC Porto do, Fabio Silva. He will be a hell of a ‘crack,'” Fernandes said.
“In a short time, he will be an extraordinary striker.”
Watching at home was Jorge Silva, a former defender, who couldn’t believe his 15-year-old son had just been compared to the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Jorge rushed Fabio into the living room, rewound the show and asked him to listen to what Fernandes had said. Both of them were stunned.
It was the highest praise the 17-year-old had received, but the accolades have kept coming, and more people are learning his name all the time.
Some may have expected Fabio to get a bit cocky and lose track after such a public declaration, but the exact opposite has happened.
Surprisingly mature for his age, he was scintillating at U19 level last season. Despite facing much older players, Fabio scored 33 goals in 39 matches, leading Porto to the UEFA Youth League and Portugal’s U19 Championship titles last term.
This season, Fabio has been smashing one record after another since breaking into the first-team squad. Still only 17, the No. 49 has become Porto’s youngest-ever starter and goalscorer in a competitive fixture, surpassing Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves, among others.
In total, he has already netted three times in just 362 minutes over 11 games with the senior side.
His rise has made him the poster child for a youth generation regarded at the Estadio do Dragao as their most promising for a long time. As well as Fabio, the likes of Romario Baro, Diogo Leite, Tomas Esteves and Diogo Costa have all had an increased role in the first-team squad this campaign.
Fabio was recently named Porto’s breakout star of the year during the club’s annual gala, but that was hardly the biggest announcement concerning him that night.
In his traditional speech, Porto president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa delivered the news that fans had been waiting for: Fabio had agreed to a new deal.
It would later emerge that the fresh contract raised his buyout clause from €25 million to €125 million, making it the highest ever in Portuguese football.
Apart from scaring away Juventus, Atletico Madrid and other big guns who had been circling him, it has also beaten the previous Portuguese buyout record held by Joao Felix, Florentino Luis and Gedson Fernandes, who all had or have €120 million clauses at Benfica (Atletico actually agreed a €126 million fee for Joao Felix so they could pay in instalments).
“More than highlighting that Fabio might be different from other players, his new release clause represents something of a strategic change by Porto,” Sergio Pires, a reporter for MaisFutebol who covers the Dragons, explains to Bleacher Report.
“In my opinion, there are two reasons behind it: Porto’s financial situation getting worse this season [especially after crashing out of the UEFA Champions League during the qualifiers] and also their new crop of youngsters being, indeed, more talented than previous ones.
“But beyond all th