Fulham plotting £12m Chambers move

Fulham are mulling a £12m move for Arsenal’s Calum Chambers, who starred on loan at Craven Cottage two seasons ago, according to the Sun.

The 25 year-old former England international was voted Fulham’s player of the season during their desperately disappointing last season in the Premier League, impressing when predominantly used as a defensive midfielder by Claudio Ranieri and current boss Scott Parker. The former Southampton defender is considering his future at Arsenal, having made just one appearance under Mikel Arteta before rupturing his cruciate, and it is thought that Chambers would be allowed to leave the Emirates as part of a reshaping of the Gunners defence.

Parker is known to be a keen admirer of Chambers’ work ethic, although his initial performances both at centre back and as a right back in a dreadful defeat by Cardiff were not impressive. His deployment in midfield turned his loan spell with the Cottagers around – and Chambers has previously spoken in glowing terms about his experiences on loan at Fulham. He scored twice, once against Brighton when his strike sparked a memorable comeback from 2-0 down and also in Parker’s first game in charge against Chelsea.

Chambers, who made 33 appearances for the Whites during his time on loan, is expected to be fully fit within a couple of weeks having stepped up his rehabilitation from injury over the course of the summer. It remains to be seen whether Fulham would make him one of their big-money signings, with defensive reinforcements believed to be Parker’s priority.

Aboubakar Kamara – A Changed Man

I was wrong about Aboubakar Kamara. Let’s bring ourselves back to January 2019 when the news was breaking out of Motspur Park that Kamara and Mitrovic got into a fight during a team yoga session. To this day we don’t have the full details of the bust up, but rumours of an arrest for actual bodily harm and criminal damage for the young French striker were rife at the time. And this had all come just two weeks after Kamara had refused to give the ball to Mitrovic to take a penalty in a crucial game against Huddersfield. Kamara went on to miss the spot, nearly throwing away a valuable win, only for Mitrovic to pop up in injury time with the eventual winner. It was another sign that things weren’t good behind the scenes at Fulham. Jokanovic was long gone and Claudio Ranieri wasn’t having the effect that Shad Khan had hoped.

When the news broke about the Motspur Park fight, my mind was made up. I wrote an article about how we needed to rid ourselves of the maverick striker. For me he was immature and having a huge detrimental effect on a team that was already badly struggling. We needed togetherness, not selfish individuals. I wanted him gone. The club sent him out on loan but I had my doubts about whether or not we would see the striker play for Fulham again. I pointed out that apart from a few impactful games in the Championship in the season before, we hadn’t really seen a striker who could really make a difference in the team. Even when he was causing problems for defences in the Championship, he would ruin a good performance with a blatant dive, or too many off-the-ball incidences. I had lost all patience.

I am so glad that the club saw something that I didn’t. Kamara came back from his loan stint at Yeni Malatyaspor in Turkey and we were told that the squad were happy to have him back. The club decided to nurture him rather than offload him. The combined effort of Mark Maunders, the player care manager, and the coaching staff have helped mould AK into the sort of player who we can trust. He has had an injury hit year, but has looked like a different player, and man, than he was the season before. His talent was so raw when he first came to us and his first touch left a lot to be desired, but that had massively improved. He has always had pace and strength, but now he has the game management and intelligent play that really makes a player a threat. Let’s not forget that he was trusted enough for the Wembley final in 2018, but back then I guess we were still worried that he would do something daft and get himself in trouble in the most important match for the club in years. This time around I wasn’t worried. Well, I was concerned about his fitness, but that was it. We had this crazy record last season were we did very well without Mitrovic in the side and AK was a big part of that early on. Despite not being used a lot, he stepped up and scored 2 against QPR, and has probably made more of an impact than Bobby Decordova Reid when asked to do the same thing.

He scored 4 and made 4 this season. Not outstanding, but those numbers don’t tell the whole story really. He offers us something completely different to our other attacking players, and now that he has improved his game management I think that a solid run in the side will see him provide more goals. He is proof that if you take the time to really nurture a player who is a bit rough around the edges, you can really make a difference. Some of the videos after the final last week show a squad that is united, and AK seemed to be in the middle of everything. One video of him with his arm around Stuart Gray told me everything that I needed to know. The coaching staff have him on side, and he has returned their faith.

I think AK could have a lot of fun in the Premier League next season. He looked so sharp when he came off the bench against Cardiff at the Cottage and then at Wembley, and if we can keep him fit, he could surprise a few opponents next season. I was wrong about him, and I’m so glad about it.

#COYW

Tony Khan: ‘We don’t need to spend £100m again – Fulham have the squad to stay up’

Fulham director of football Tony Khan says he won’t be splashing the cash this summer and backs his squad, with a few sensible additions, to be strong enough to stay in the Premier League.

Khan, speaking in an interview with the Times‘ football correspondent Alyson Rudd, feels that some of the additions made over the course of this past season will prove pivotal in the months ahead. He also says that the club’s statistically-based transfer model will remain in place, praising manager Scott Parker’s ‘proactive’ approach to recruitment and rules out a Craven Cottage return for Tottenham winger Ryan Sessegnon.

Following Fulham’s dramatic play-off final win over Brentford in extra time last week, Parker was quick to admit the club needed to learn lessons from their last promotion, when a summer of free spending disrupted the harmony of a tight-knit dressing room. Khan feels Fulham’s decisions to trigger the options to turn loan deals for Bobby Decordova-Reid, Anthony Knockaert and Ivan Cavaleiro leave the club handily placed – even though there is only a month to go until the start of the new season.

“We won’t spend £100m again, I don’t think we need to. The best players we bought are still with us. I feel better about the club, it’s not as if we have to build again. I have already exercised most of options on loan payers and I expect the squad to look very similar to the one that got promoted.”

“The investment we made was a big reason we got promoted. I hope we can be more competitive this time. We spent on the future. I am very happy with the players I bought in the summer of 2018. If we didn’t have camaraderie then, we have it now. We didn’t stay up but Mitro and Bryan were key to us getting back up.”

Khan highlights the importance of signing Michael Hector from Chelsea, a deal that was completed last summer, even if a delay in processing the paperwork following Sessegnon’s switch to Spurs meant the commanding centre half couldn’t actually make his debut until January.

“I needed to get that deal across the line. I didn’t have the money to make the bid until right before the deadline. I’d really wanted Michael the whole season but because of FFP I had to be careful. I spoke to Marina [Granovskaia, the Chelsea director] and told her we’d try to get the paperwork done before the deadline, but we weren’t able to.”

“I couldn’t get past this thought: ‘what if Michael makes a huge difference and we fall just short?,’ then I’ll always wonder what would have happened if we had been able to get him in sooner. A part of me was very scared we’d fall short at the end. I knew he was going to be an important player, but I didn’t feel comfortable paying the fee until Ryan’s deal had balanced the books.”

Khan also revealed that both Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa and Jean Michael Seri, big money signings last year who spent this season on loan at foreign clubs, will return to Fulham for pre-season and could play a part in the Whites’ Premier League campaign.

“I love both players. The plan now is for them both to return to train with us in a couple of weeks. If the right bid came in, I’d have to consider it but right now they’re aiming to come back to Fulham. Zambo is under contract for three more years and I believe in him. They like him a lot in Spain. Nobody is going to get Frank cheap. He’s a great asset.”

The Fulham vice-chairman also revealed that a lengthy Zoom call with Parker before the play-off final largely focused on how to use Aboubakar Kamara in the absence of Aleksandar Mitrovic, who was recovering from an untimely hamstring injury.

“The call was about tactics and players and how to deploy them. A lot of it was about Abou, who played as a striker in France and was a striker when he signed for Fulham and then we fell into this dilemma when we signed Mitrovic and we started playing him on the wrong. One thing we talked about at length was Abou and Scott agreed with me and he used Abou as a striker. He was one of our heroes at Wembley.”

Khan described Fulham’s ‘two-boxes’ ticked approach to recruitment as ‘collaborative’ and insisted that it would remain in place.

“The process is not changing. Of all the managers we have had, Scott is the most proactive about coming to meetings. It is a collaborative process and Scott has a lot of input. If I send him a long list of players, he researches them all.”

He also confirmed that Fulham were keen to activate the £8m clause in Harrison Reid’s loan deal that would secure a permanent move for the combative midfielder from Southampton. Such was Reed’s influence in the midfielder over the second half of the season that the news will be warmly welcomed by the Fulham faithful.

“I’m working on it. I have an option to buy and I think he does want to stay.”

Khan bluntly shut down any prospect of Sessegnon, who broke into the Fulham first team as a teenager to such dramatic effect, returning to his boyhood club,

“I am not not interested. Ryan already played for us in the Premier League and he didn’t do enough to keep us in there. We get two [Premier League] loans and I can’t be in the business of developing other people’s players when they don’t have time to play them. In my statistical system, I actually rated Josh [Onomah] equally with Sessegnon.”

Two hours of Kevin McDonald’s magnificence

If you haven’t already caught up with Kevin McDonald’s appearance on Simon Ferry’s outstanding podcast, we’d highly recommend it.

Fulham fans might not have seen much of McDonald on the pitch this season – something he eludes to towards the end of a fascinatingly frank and very funny discussion – but nobody at Craven Cottage is in any doubt as to how important he remains within the dressing. The Scot’s experience, leadership and motivational qualities were on display throughout Fulham’s last promotion-winning campaign, when he led the pre-match and post-match pep talks.

There are plenty of hilarious anecdotes from McDonald’s time in the game, but his account of his Fulham career is particularly noteworthy. He seemed to suss out Claudio Ranieri pretty quickly, has a lot of affection for Slavisa Jokanovic and how he transformed McDonald’s own game and, even though this episode came before Fulham’s last Wembley triumph, there’s recognition of Scott Parker’s own development as a tactician. I won’t spoil it all for you – the whole thing is well worth a watch, but the Fulham section starts with about half an hour to go.

Fulham keen on Kongolo

Fulham could reprise their loan move for Huddersfield defender Terence Kongolo, according to reports this afternoon from Holland.

The Whites had the Dutch international on loan at Craven Cottage for the second half of last season, but the 25 year-old made just made two appearances before being ruled out for the remainder of the season with a foot injury. Scott Parker will be eyeing reinforcements to his defence as Fulham prepare for another assault on the Premier League in a month’s time – and Kongolo made 45 appearances in the top flight with the Terriers before Town were relegated in 2019.

The Dutch press suggest that Fulham are interested in signing Kongolo again and would have no problems in paying the versatile defender’s wages in full, which is a condition of a loan agreement with Huddersfield. That clause seems to rule out AZ Alkmaar, who were eager to offer Kongolo an opportunity to return to Holland. Kongolo’s only start for Fulham was in a 4-0 defeat at Manchester City in the FA Cup back in February, before he was injured as Parker’s side clung on to a 1-0 win at Blackburn, where he made a late appearance as a substitute.

UPDATE: A report from the Huddersfield Examiner suggests that Fulham’s interest might actually be a permanent transfer for Kongolo.

Fulham fancy Ampadu loan deal

Fulham are the favourites to sign versatile Chelsea youngster Ethan Ampadu on loan, according to a report from the Athletic tonight.

Norwich City made an audacious bid to land the Welsh international on loan as they begin their preparations for life in the Championship, but Chelsea are keen for the teenager to play top flight football if at all possible. Ampadu, who has made a bright start to life at Stamford Bridge after making an eye-catching breakthrough at Exeter City, endured a frustrating spell on loan at RB Leipzig, where he made just three league appearances and was sidelined by a back problem.

Ampadu has made twelve senior appearances for Chelsea, but has just one league appearance to his name – when he came off the bench against Huddersfield three years ago. Equally at home in central defence or as a holding midfielder, the ball-playing talent could provide cover in critical positions for Scott Parker as looks to give his squad the sort of depth necessary to be competitive in the Premier League.

Ampadu has enjoyed a meteoric rise since becoming Exeter’s youngest ever player – and winning man of the match – when he starred against Brentford aged just fifteen in August 2016. He made eight senior appearances for the Grecians before joining Chelsea the following July, with a tribunal eventually setting the fee at around £85,000. He signed a five-year contract with the Blues in September 2018 and, whilst Frank Lampard rates Ampadu’s potential as extremely high, he is understood to consider another loan opportunity as best for the defender’s development.

Ampadu, whose father Kwame also played for Exeter, has won thirteen senior caps for Wales, having made his debut as a substitute against France in November 2017. Turkish side Trabzonspor, who appointed the former Chelsea midfielder and assistant coach Eddie Newton as their permanent boss last week, are reportedly keen on offering Amapdu another foreign loan.

Fulham linked with Maitland-Niles move

Fulham are one of a number of London clubs prepared to offer Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles a chance to stay in the capital, according to a report from the Sun this afternoon.

Reports earlier this week suggested that Mikel Arteta had hoped to keep the versatile younger at the Emirates but has been overruled by his board as the club seeks to raise funds for a summer spending spree. The 22 year-old started Arsenal’s FA Cup final victory over Chelsea but now looks set to be heading for pastures new. Having made 20 league appearances this year – and being able to play both in midfield and defence – there is sure to be a wide array of interest for Maitland-Niles’ services.

The former England under-21 international has even been linked with a surprise move across north London to Spurs, where Jose Mourinho is seeking to strengthen his squad ahead of his first full season in charge. West Ham and Crystal Palace are also keen on Maitland-Niles, whilst Fulham are side to have registered an interest following their promotion to the top flight last week.

Maitland-Niles could add depth to Scott Parker’s midfield options as well as providing cover at right back, where the Cottagers are looking to strengthen ahead of the new campaign. The main stumbling block will be over the fee, with Arsenal apparently looking for around £20m and a bidding war set to ensue.

Fulham eager to bring Babel back

Fulham have opened discussions with Galatasaray over bringing Ryan Babel back to Craven Cottage, according to reports from Turkey.

The former Liverpool winger enjoyed a successful short-term spell with Fulham when he joined from Besiktas in January 2019, scoring five goals in sixteen games, but his exploits were not enough to prevent the Whites from an immediate return to the Championship. The Dutch international subsequently signed for Galatasaray but endured a difficult start to his career with the Turkish giants and was loaned out to former club Ajax for the second half of the season.

Galatasaray’s failure to qualify for Europe means they are likely to trim their squad of some of their highest wage earners and Babel’s agent has been in touch with a number of potential suitors, according to media reports. The 33 year-old would bring significant top flight experience to Fulham’s squad, having made 146 appearances in four years with Liverpool, and has spoken positively of his time in London. He featured impressively during Scott Parker’s caretaker tenure towards the end of the 2018-2019 season – but it remains to be seen whether the Whites can complete a deal.

Never give up, says Fulham hero Kebano

Neeskens Kebano is the best example of the importance of keeping the faith. The Congolese winger’s sensational form towards the end of the season powered Fulham through to the play-offs and he made a vital contribution as the Whites beat Brentford to secure promotion to the Premier League.

Kebano scored five goals in five games – doing enough to earn a new two-year contract at Craven Cottage having only started a single game before the coronavirus lockdown. The turnaround was remarkable and a fitting reward for the 28 year-old’s impressive work ethic and unstinting belief in his own ability.

Kebano told the BBC:

Prior to the lockdown, I was just entering games for four or 10 minutes or so but since the restart, I began more games. So obviously with more time on the pitch, you have more chances to score.

Maybe he [Scott Parker] felt that it was my moment, that I deserved it for my effort. I never gave up, I always worked hard and I took the opportunity when I had one. This is how I earned my place.

The winger shared his delight at sealing an instant return to the top flight.

We are so proud of getting a promotion right after going down. Our season was far from perfect but we fought like animals and we got what we deserved. This is why we had crazy celebrations. Fulham is back to the place it belongs. In this club, I have my habits here, my family is happy. This is why I feel great in this club.

He also agreed with the assertion that Fulham’s previous Premier League woes, when they were relegated a year after winning promotion, was partially caused by a summer of splashing the cash, something both Parker and chairman Shahid Khan have pledged to avoid this time around.

I think one of the mistakes was to include too many new players in a team already in place. “I am not a football teacher but it’s definitely the mistake to avoid. Last time, it could have worked but it didn’t.

Leeds poised to complete £1m Drameh deal

Leeds are poised to complete a deal to take promising Fulham defender Cody Drameh to Elland Road for a fee that could rise to around £1m, according to a report in the Daily Mail this morning.

The young full-back is in his final year of his current deal at Craven Cottage and, after starring for Fulham’s under-23 side, had been linked with Manchester City and several European sides. The Londoners appear resigned to the fact that the 18 year-old would not sign a new contract and entered into negotiations with Leeds over a permanent transfer, although the two sides were initially some way apart in their valuation – with Leeds offering around £400,000 for the England under-18 international.

Marcelo Bielsea rates Drameh, who remains behind Cyrus Christie, Denis Odoi and Steven Sessegnon in Scott Parker’s pecking order, highly and is prepared to offer the youngster an opportunity in the first team rather than sending him out on loan. Leeds had an approach turned down in January and have returned to try and complete the deal, which will also include a 20 per cent sell-on clause.