Chris Coleman has told Papa Bouba Diop he will have to be at the top of his game to win his place back in Fulham’s midfield.
Coleman has been upset with the effect of playing for Senegal has on Diop, and the midfielder has been out with a thigh injury since the win over Charlton last month.
The 28-year-old is in the squad for the trip to face Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Saturday, but he is expected to be on the bench as Carlos Bocanegra deputises again.
Fulham have lost just once in their last five games and Bocanegra, who is usually a defender, has played a part in the run that has taken Fulham into the top half of the Premiership.
“In his absence the team have won and people have done well in his position, Carlos has done well,” said Fulham boss Coleman. “In any given day of the week you look and Bouba and Carlos, and Bouba is a natural central midfielder and a good stopper.
But Carlos has done very well and all the while he’s doing that Bouba not only has to get back in the team, but when he does it’s not longer the case he can get away with playing at 70% if he’s carrying an injury. His physical fitness has got to be maximum because if it’s not and it affects his performance, we know we can change it, and we haven’t had that before.”
Coleman has spoken to Diop and is certain the midfielder is focused on his club duties at Craven Cottage.
He added: “I’ve spoken to Bouba about internationals. I don’t want to stop him playing for Senegal but when he goes to some of the friendly games to the back and beyond, the last six times he’s been away four times he’s come back and got injured.
“His performances have dropped so that has to be addressed because he has to concentrate on Fulham as well. I’ve addressed that with him and he’s fully committed to us, he knows that and he wants to concentrate on Fulham.”