This is a guest article by Oliver Auckland, which I asked him to do after following him on the social networks for literally years. He’s become quite the connoisseur of Eastern European football so after the transfer window closed – on deadline day he gave me a very thorough overview of a young Serb we were linked with – I thought I’d hit him up to write a few words for HammyEnd. Being so ignorant of anything football east of Southend I thought this was a very interesting read, and I hope you do too. -LRCN
Having spent the past 4 years as a student living out of reach of Craven Cottage on matchdays, my viewing of games is confined to streaming via the Internet, usually with Tony Gale telling me how good Dembele is (or was). During this time, my interest in football has wandered east for a number of reasons. I won’t bore you as to those reasons but one, rather handy reason, is the difference in kick off times in Eastern Europe to the UK. It wouldn’t be uncommon for me to have watched 2-3 games of football before Fulham kicks off at 3pm, nor would it be to have watched half a dozen Russian 2nd division matches midweek which finish no later than late afternoon. As an unemployed student it’s all very convenient.
Fulham’s struggles in the league haven’t really come as a surprise due to a lack of continuity in the starting XI. To add to this madness, here are 5 realistic transfer targets from Eastern Europe & the Balkans that Jol should have been badgering MacIntosh to sign.
RW: Aras Özbiliz, FK Kuban
A product of Ajax’s youth system, Özbiliz made his club debut in November 2010 under Martin Jol. Describing him as a ‘real winger’, Jol also complimented his speed and his awareness, something which the 22 year old utilised well in his debut season in the Russian Premier League where he’s scored 7 goals in 15 games. He’s arguably been FK Kuban’s best player in what was shaping up to be their best ever season since their birth in 1928. Since the winter break, manager Yuri Krasnozhan was sacked in mysterious circumstances with the official line given by the club being ‘selection differences’. Although Özbiliz only joined in the summer for €1m, due to the chaotic state at the club, he’d be available for up for £4m and would be an ideal replacement for Duff.
CB: Eugene Khacheridi, Dynamo Kyiv
A name that might be familiar to some from recent matches against Ukraine, Eugene Khacheridi should have been a target for Jol considering Fulham’s unsuccessful attempts to lure Douglas or Forren to the Cottage. Khacheridi is comparable to –wait for it- Phillipe Senderos with his physical prowess, ability to tackle, high work rate and occasional moments of madness; The “Ukrainian Balotelli”. His ball-playing ability exceeds both Senderos and Hughes and with fine tuning could be as good as Hangeland’s. The 6 ft 6 defender is a fighter, a player who’d thrive in English football and he would have been available for up to £5m. A fallout with manager Oleg Blokhin left Khacheridi considering his options as a number of enquiries came in from abroad (including QPR surprise, surprise) and he announced in December he would leave the club only to sign a contract in early February. Although his very promising career has stalled somewhat due to injuries, he’s 25 and still has the best days ahead of him.
FW: Jonathan Cristaldo, Metalist Kharkiv
A player who Fulham sorely need as he knows where the goal is and occasionally scores a goal good enough for YouTube, the 23 year old hitman has bagged 12 goals in 19 games this season for Ukraine’s perennial underachievers. Despite being only 5’9, Cristaldo is strong on the ball, good in the air and has a level of technical brilliance that is only shared by the other imports in Ukraine. His performances in the Europa League last year were particularly impressive as Metalist reached the quarter finals. Whilst Metalist would not want to part with a player of this quality, especially after recently losing Taison to Shakhtar, the club’s problem is that they struggle with the domestic quota where no more than 7 foreigners are allowed in the XI at once, so he isn’t off limits.
CM: Demy de Zeeuw, Anderlecht (on loan from Spartak Moscow)
A more familiar name and another player who has previously played under Martin Jol, Demy de Zeeuw has struggled to adapt to life at Spartak and was subsequently loaned out to Anderlecht on January 22nd until the end of the season with a €2m option to buy. He’s represented the Netherlands 27 times at senior level including the World Cup semi-final and has played in the Champions League. Although Fulham need a destroyer in the centre of midfield, de Zeeuw is a box-to-box player who has good awareness, something that would complement the rugged Sidwell. He’d welcome the chance to play in England as he commented that Russia was ‘quite alien’ to him in regards to culture, football and the constant flights for away games. A low-risk loan deal such as this would be ideal for the January window. Having previously been bought by Jol at Ajax, I think Jol will be regretting letting a player known to him slip under his radar.
FW & RW: Nemanja Kojic & Predrag Luka, Partizan Belgrade
In a rare double signing, Partizan Belgrade stole two of FK Rad’s best players and probably any hope that Rad had of qualifying for the Europa League. Kojic, standing at 6 ft 3, is a traditional centre forward and has been handed the no.9 shirt after a couple of very impressive seasons at Rad and for Serbia u21. Luka is a tricky right winger whose rise to fame was put on hold when he had his leg broken in 2011. Fortunately it hasn’t hampered his ability as he’s still able to beat his man with ease whilst showing off flare that you’d expect from Brazilian counterparts. I first saw both of them play when on a football filled holiday to Serbia and Luka immediately impressed me. Playing for Partizan will now offer them the opportunity to represent Serbia and the bright lights of the Champions League. Although this double deal wouldn’t have much of an impact on Fulham’s starting XI, if the club hijacked the deal then both would add to the list of youngsters who are on the verge of first team football.