Chris Coleman has reiterated that Steed Malbranque will never play for Fulham again and his defiance has received the full backing of the club’s chairman and board.
Fulham are desperate to offload Malbranque before the transfer window closes but the midfielder wants to see out the remaining year of his contract before leaving on a free.
The Cottagers face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, one of the most attractive fixtures of the Barclays Premiership season on the opening weekend.
However Malbranque seems destined to play no part in the match, with Jimmy Bullard due to make his competitive Fulham debut in the Frenchman’s stead, and after a successful season for Wigan he should be a suitable replacement.
Coleman has told Malbranque he will sit out the whole season if he stays – a courageous stance from the Cottagers boss given the 26-year-old is his best player.
But Coleman’s resolve to defend his principles and secure a fee for a player who cost £5million in 2001 remains as strong as ever – leaving Malbranque in limbo.
“We’ve been consistent with what we’ve said. We’ve done everything we can to keep Steed happy, offering him a long-term and short-term contract,” he said.
“He’s turned down everything. It’s Steed’s way or no way. We said to him last season, don’t go down this route because there will be no winners.
“We’ve had good service from a quality player, but he’s had good service from us too, so it works both ways.
“Letting him walk away is bad business on our part and we have to set a precedent for other players. We can’t let players who we have invested a lot of money in to walk away for nothing.
“I’ve told Steed to his face and the players, chairman and directors are all in agreement: Steed won’t play for Fulham even if he’s fit. His future lies elsewhere.
“We’ve agreed fees with other clubs but he doesn’t want to move on. He wants to see his contract out so he can move on for nothing next summer.
“That’s bad business for Fulham -I don’t care how good he is. Malbranque is a good player but he doesn’t make Fulham.
“I wish he would sign a new contract but he won’t and the matter is finished.”
Newcastle, Middlesbrough, West Ham and Aston Villa have all shown interest in Malbranque and Coleman remains hopeful a transfer can be completed before the window closes.
“As it stands nothing is happening. There are still a couple of clubs who want to do business but there isn’t a lot of time left now,” he said.
Malbranque requires surgery on a groin problem and is talking to a French specialist, potentially derailing any move away from Craven Cottage.
But the injury is only minor and the likely prognosis is he will not be out for longer than two weeks.
Time is of the essence, however, as Coleman is eager to sign a replacement but cannot move until money has been raised from Malbranque’s sale.
“We’re looking to bring in someone to play wide right. Maybe it will have to be a loan deal,” he said.
“Looking at the budget we thought we’d lose one or two players that we’ve still got, so we don’t have the money to bring in anyone else.
“I’ve been told we can’t buy but I’ve been looking at the position since last season. Selling Steed would release cash for us, maybe enough for two players.”