Is Alvaro Fernandez Carreras the Solution to Benfica’s Left Back Dilemma?

Eight years ago, Benfica signed a 20-year-old Spanish left back who had not yet broken through to FC Barcelona’s first team. Alex Grimaldo would go on to score 27 goals and 66 assists in 303 appearances for Benfica, winning four league titles before departing in the summer of 2023. With Benfica’s summer signings David Jurasek and Juan Bernat struggling to fill Grimaldo’s void, the Portuguese champions have snapped up a promising 20-year-old Spaniard who found his playing time limited in one of the biggest teams in Europe.


Alvaro Fernandez Carreras, born on 23 March 2003 in Ferrol is a Spanish professional footballer who is a left back the 20-Year-old has worked his way up into the footballing world. Fernandez joined the local club Galicia de Caranza before moving to Racing de Ferrol when he was just 4 years old, the Spanish professional represented his local his for almost five years (from 2007 – 2012) before moving to Deportivo de La Coruna in 2012. He went on to represent The Herculeans until 2017 before signing for Los Blancos when he was 14. The full back had big names like FC Barcelona, Manchester City FC during the 2020 transfer window when the Spanish professional decided to play for Manchester United.


In his first year at United, Carreras was a regular starter for under 23s making 20 league appearances, 1 in the EFL Cup and 7 games for the under 18s as well, he then went on to make 21 league appearances, all of the three EFL Cup games and 6 of the 7 UEFA Youth League while training with the senior team in 2021-2022 and he was named the Best u23 Player in the club in the same year.



Alvaro Fernandez Carreras was called up to the first team in April 2022 when he was named in the squad list for the match again Chelsea and Brighton & Hove Albion. The Spanish professional was initially loaned out to Preston North End during the 2022-2023 season and he was back at the Theatre ofDdreams at the end of the season only to be loaned out to La Liga side Granada for six months starting from July 2023 to January 2024.


His loan was cut short after making just five La Liga starts, with the youngster heading to the other side of Iberia and joining Benfica. The deal includes an obligation to buy if Fernandez starts 50 % of the games and Benfica will pay €6million plus €3m in potential add-ons, with United also inserting a buyback clause and a sell-on fee.


He has represented at the under-19 and under-21 at the international for his country, making his debut for the under-19 team on 26 October 2022, when he started in a friendly match against Israel. Data for the visualizations have been taken from FBRef and players having played less than 6-90s are taken for comparisons. Data indication for Alvaro Fernandez Carreras has been highlighted in gold for easy identification and this methodology is applied for all the visualization in this analysis piece.  



Alvaro Carreras stands tall at 186cms (6’1’’), and is a physically imposing player. The Spanish professional is a complete modern-day full back with attacking mindset in looking to exploit tight spaces, create more chances by involving himself in the build-up game and commits in every opportunity to seize the game in favour of his team. He constantly looks at contributing to his team in every way possible. Being a left footed full back, Carreras loves to do overlaps and dribble past players, he has an elite footwork to get past players but still needs to develop in the tactical aspects on his weaker foot. 



Carreras is yet to score his first goal of the season but he has been very close to finding the net on multiple occasions. Despite not being on the score sheet it is his ability to find himself in the range of the goal and 18-yard box before taking on the shot but with his technique in terms of finishing is a concerning factor in his game. He seems uncomfortable and double minded causing him lose concentration causing him to either lose the ball or fire it up over the bar. His work ethic is brilliant but when there is no end product, the hard work is wasted. If Carreras can find a way to improve his technique in finishing, he can become one of the best in the business.  



Carreras is a left-back but he posses the qualities of an attacking mid-fielder which is why Alexander Medina used him as Left Winger or Left Striker based on the formation during the game and with the minutes give the Spaniard has been surprising. Carreras has an incredible mid set when it comes to taking decisions on the final pass, he looks for team mates in better positions before taking his shot at goal.


His athleticism and pace help him in finding space making things difficult for the opposition to cover. His IQ in drawing out players with the ball at his feet before finding team mates is brilliant and he absolutely loves to take on players and create more space in any place on the pitch.


His presence in the field is always a concern for the opposition as his durability and ability to play up and down for the entire 90 is very dangerous. If played as a left back, he can make both inverted runs and overlap runs pulling more opposition players on him in order to find room for his teammates. When played as a midfielder, He is always up for taking on quick counters and holding as many players as possible to help his teammates get into comfortable position.



When in possession the Spaniard has immense ability in completing passes in tight spaces without stopping or bringing down the pace of the game. Carreras always tends to position himself in an attacking approach leading his team to have more options and apply more pressure.


The Spaniard uses his height effective enough in applying pressure to keep hold of the ball and come out of tight space with ease, his footballing knowledge on when to take small touches or medium touches or push the ball and run is high but he still has to learn not to take upon pressure every single time he receives the ball. Despite being a left back, Carreras has been used as a left mid-fielder this season and he has been effective at times but he also has been a back up option in such a type of play.


Carreras has high endurance, physically strong and is also injury agile. He has good IQ on releasing the ball with the correct technique, he can cross the ball into the 18-yard box, he takes an extra dribble towards the goal and deliver a minus or even break lines by switching sides of play from the edge of the box. Modern football has already been the reason for the killing of number 10s but what we tend to forget is it even takes away individuality and puts more pressure on creating them to be unique.



Carreras shows attacking instincts in trying to win the ball back by positioning himself to cut the passes and giving in for tackles, he has shown absolute character in defensive qualities but he still lacks awareness in playing above the defensive line and giving away unwanted fouls at critical moments in the game. Calm and composed when retreating and defending the transition, he makes himself big and holds his ground, capable of eating up ground and utilizing his pace and physicality to his advantage. 



So far, Carreras has been a tough player to beat. He is aerially strong, and along with his incredible pace and strength he has been one of the most exciting players at his position. Despite not having many minutes in the league he has shown class by being a fearless defender by putting his body on the line, the Spaniard has excellent timing when going in for challenges and duels. His ability to cut down counter attacks by winning the tackle has been a solid strength for the Spanish youngster. 


With time and nurturing in certain areas like switching the play, making inverted runs based on the type of attack, positioning when the ball transitions from attack to defence and his attacking aerial ability along with his finishing. If the Spanish youngster works on his weak foot and improve his finishing, he could very well challenge for a place in the Spain national team with La Roja currently searching for a long-term heir to Jordi Alba’s throne.


At 20 years of age, Alvaro Fernandez Carreras has already developed at Manchester United and Real Madrid’s academies, and after bouncing around from Preston to Granada over the past 18 months, he’ll be looking to solidify a place in Roger Schmidt’s defense at Benfica, who sit atop the Primeira Liga table, level on 52 points with Sporting, who have a game in hand, as well as seven points above Porto.


By: Sive Vishwa / @sive_vishwa

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Matthew Ashton – AMA / Getty Images