At present it’s fair to say our midfield is fairly well stocked. We have an abundance of wingers (Dempsey, Duff, Ruiz, Dembele, Davies, Riise), central midfielders (Murphy, Sidwell, Etuhu, Diarra) and young talent bursting at the seams to be given a chance (Frei, Gecov, Kasami, Kacaniklic).
However, it is still likely that come the summer Martin Jol will go searching the length and breadth of Europe to find us one or two creative reinforcements. Our ageless wonder of a captain has time left in his legs yet, but quite how long, nobody is sure, Diarra is only on a six month contract, Etuhu is not the boss’ favourite while Duff and Davies do not exactly fit the bill for a younger squad. On top of this Bryan, Clint and Moose fall into that marvelous transitional pseudo attacker position Fulham seem to have patented over the past few seasons.
On this basis here are some suggestions as to whom Fulham could be sending the scouts to look at, over the remainder of this season:
Get the Chequebook Ready
Gylfi Sigurdsson – Hoffenheim (on loan at Swansea), Age: 22, Potential Cost: £6-10m
To my mind the young Icelander should be our Number One summer target. Rumoured to be a Fulham target when he left Reading for the Bundesliga two years ago, Sigurdsson now finds himself on loan at Swansea from parent club Hoffenheim. This transfer went so far under the radar in January it may as well have been tunneling with a spoon. Not any more. He’s become the key cog in a vibrant Swansea outfit who can score free kicks for fun. One thing’s for sure though, there will be a fight for his signature, should new Hoffenheim coach Markus Babbel decide to let him leave the Rhein-Neckar Arena permanently in the summer.
Christian Eriksen – Ajax, Age: 20, Potential Cost: £15m
The possibility that we could sign the Danish international are slim to none. Eriksen is the best player in Holland right now and probably the most exciting prospect out of Scandinavia since the Laudrups, he has 21 caps to his name and is already Denmark’s most important player (sorry Niklas Bendtner). Ajax would be loath to let this creative visionary leave and there will be big clubs in the queue should they do so. A strong finish to our season and with Martin Jol having been Eriksen’s manager at Ajax could count in our favour but this signing would be a dream come true if we could pull it off.
Dries Mertens – PSV Eindhoven, Age: 24, Potential Cost £10m
The diminutive Belgian is fast growing a reputation as the ticking heartbeat of Eredivisie title contenders PSV. Nippy, with good vision and an eye for goal, Mertens will be keen to leave Holland for a bigger league despite only joining the Eindhoven club last summer along with another supposed former Fulham target, Kevin Strootman.
Nacer Chadli – FC Twente, Age: 22, Potential Cost: £6-8m
Chadli has a confirmed admirer in Martin Jol. Another Belgian international, the Twente winger/attacker (cos we don’t have any of them) came close to joining us last summer but an injury scuppered any potential move. Widespread belief in Holland is that the day Chandli pulls on a Fulham shirt is a question of when not if. One thing that concerns me is the fact that in two games against us in the Europa league, he failed to shine whilst playing second fiddle to Bryan Ruiz last season and Luuk De Jong this. As long as the cost doesn’t escalate, Nacer could be an excellent long term Duff replacement.
Alejandro Faurlin – Queens Park Rangers, Age: 25, Potential Cost: £8m
QPR’s slide down the league table has in large part been to the continued absence of Argentine Faurlin since Christmas with a knee injury. Faurlin’s time in England has not been short of controversy. The midfielder was at the heart of a row over murky transfer dealings at Loftus Road under the Briatore regime that almost saw last season’s promotion derailed by legal action. Let’s not let this detract from Faurlin’s talent though. His ability to manage a game and pass accurately, with an eye for goal, yet keen defensive awareness makes him far too good for our neighbours. If Rangers go down, or even if they don’t, signing Faurlin (as long as there’s nothing suspicious about his agent) would be a very astute deal. James McCarthy of Wigan is a similar player who we could do worse than looking at should Wigan suffer the fate that is clearly awaiting them.
Lewis McGugan – Nottingham Forest, Age: 23, Potential Cost: £3m
This summer might well be McGugan’s last shot at making the big time. At 23, he is in danger of being wrongly typecast, as a Championship level midfielder. With Forest in all sorts of trouble this year both on and off the field, McGugan is available for sure, he possesses a good passing range and fantastic natural ability to strike a ball. He’d need coaching up and a manager with some faith but this could be a value for money signing of a good young English talent.
Jem Karacan – Reading, Age: 23, Cost: £3m
Another central midfielder, like McGugan, who is in danger of missing his chance at a go in the top division, Karacan is a Turkey Under-21 international despite being born in London to English and Turkish-Cypriot parents, not unlike former Sheffield United striker Colin Kazim-Richards who now represents Turkey under the name Kazim-Kazim. Karacan is a tough tackling ball winner who could well go up with Reading, who are themselves making a late surge for promotion. Jordan Mutch and Nathan Redmond of Birmingham are two similarly young prospects who might like to jump up a division but both are highly thought of at Birmingham City, who could themselves get back to the Premier League.
Matt Phillips – Blackpool, Age: 20, Potential Cost: £5m
A fine young English winger (who has been called up for Scotland via his mum’s gran’s cat’s friend) Phillips has been a shining light in the second tier of English football this year. Fast, tricky and with an eye for goal Phillips is already his manager, Ian Holloway’s, favourite talking point. Like Charlie Adam last season, Holloway knows he’s off and is doing his best to talk up his price. An unlikely signing given our abundance of wingers but a good prospect nonetheless. The same could be said of Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha.
Ruben Yttergard Jensen – Tromso, Age: 23, Potential Cost: £2m-4m
Combative midfielder Jensen is a former Norway Under-21 Captain with 11 full international caps to his name and looks set to be the next export off the Tippeligaen production line. A move to England traditionally suits Norwegian players and coming to a club that already holds three full internationals with over 200 caps between them would make sense. Not known for his goalscoring ability, Jensen has scored only 3 goals in over 150 professional games; a capacity to read the game and passing ability make him a potential steal. Two other Norwegian targets could be Valerenga duo Harmeet Singh and Mohammed Fellah. Both are highly regarded and Singh has a contract expiring in November.
Moreno Costanzo – Young Boys, Age: 23, Potential Cost: £3m-5m
Swiss international Costanzo first caught my eye last season when he stood out in the Young Boys side that ran Spurs close in a Champions League qualifier. A flashy attacking midfielder who has a distinct eye for goal, think of Costanzo as somewhere between a Kasami and Frei crossover. Should we wish to field an all-Swiss midfield, Costanzo would certainly help without losing any quality along the way.
Edgar Prib – Greuther Furth, Age: 22, Potential Cost: £4m
I will happily admit to having never heard of Edgar Prib until a few weeks ago. A report surfaced online that we were scouting the 22 year old German along with teammate Sercan Sararer and I, of course, ran straight to youtube to see what skills I could find. With what was I met? Prib has become infamous for the miss of the season in Germany where he skillfully rounded the keeper only to miss an open goal from 7 yards by hitting the post from the middle of the goal. This aside, reports suggest Prib has enormous potential and is a rising star in the Bundesliga 2 (Germany’s second tier). Our biggest obstacle here could be that his club, Greuther Furth are currently top of the league and look to be heading for promotion making them unlikely sellers.
Hopefully the above list will promote some discussion, and these are but a few of the bright young talents gracing midfields across the continent. I will have missed out people for sure, and have left some off (Jamie O’Hara and Derek Boateng for example) but hopefully this list is a start. Who would you like us to sign? Do we need to sign anyone at all?