Fulham boss Chris Coleman has been in the game long enough to know that players come and go, but the Fulham manager could barely have been less complimentary about Luis Boa Morte yesterday when he was asked to explain why he agreed to sell the Portugal winger to West Ham United for £5 million eight days ago.
Boa Morte is expected to line up against his former team-mates at Upton Park this afternoon and when he pulls on his new claret-and-blue shirt he will do so with Coleman’s blunt assessment of his diminishing abilities ringing in his ears. According to Coleman, the former Fulham captain was sold because he was past his sell-by date and was surplus to requirements.
“I would imagine he is going to play, but he is not someone we are going to worry about,” Coleman said. “He had lost his aura and his presence. I’m not being bitter and twisted, but I don’t think we will be weakened by his departure.”
Boa Morte, 29, became an instant favourite when he moved to West London from Southampton 5½ years ago, but his love affair with Fulham soured when he returned from playing for his country in the World Cup finals in Germany last summer. A fractured cheekbone sidelined him for six weeks at the start of the season, but when he returned in October, Coleman suspected that the winger was going through the motions. Boa Morte’s decision to swap a club who are twelfth in the Barclays Premiership for one who are in the relegation zone proved to Coleman that he was desperate to leave Craven Cottage.
“Luis struggled with injuries this season and wasn’t himself — his heart was somewhere else,” Coleman said. “When Luis played off the cuff, he was a real force, but we hardly ever saw that this season. Luis is an exciting player on his day but he is nothing we have not come up against before.”
Although Boa Morte was a popular figure at the club, Coleman demands total loyalty from his players and he believes that the winger had underperformed since he was linked with a transfer to Newcastle United in August 2005. Nevertheless, Boa Morte left the club on good terms, although rumours circulated around Craven Cottage that all was not well in the dressing-room before the winger’s departure last Friday.
“As far as I know he said goodbye to the other players,” Coleman said. “There was no friction in the dressing-room, but I guess we will find out on the pitch today.”
Boa Morte’s place in the Fulham team has been taken by Tomasz Radzinski and Coleman rubbed salt into his former captain’s wounds by saying that the Canada winger had strengthened the side. “When Radzinski has been playing, he has looked sharper and more potent than Boa Morte,” the manager said.
Coleman has been given the proceeds from the £5 million transfer to spend on new players by Mohamed Al Fayed, the Fulham and Harrods chairman, but Clint Dempsey, the United States midfield player, will not be able to make his debut today because the paperwork for his £2 million transfer from the New England Revolution has not been completed. “The chairman has made money available,” Coleman said. “I have to improve the team, but I am used to doing my shopping at Tesco, not Harrods.”
Dempsey is likely to be on the substitutes’ bench at home to Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday and he may be joined at the club by Alexei Smertin. Coleman said that Fulham were in pole position to sign the former Chelsea midfield player, who has been released by Dynamo Moscow. “London is a good attraction for him and he likes Fulham, but we will have to see,” Coleman said.