Despite having a world class striker already at the club in Dimitar Berbatov, and a formation that usually allows for only one to be on the pitch at any one time, striker is the position which excites the imagination like no other. So here is a look at some of the front men that could or should be on Fulham’s radar this summer:
With Spanish side Sevilla suffering significant financial woes, it is widely understood around Europe that their top stars are up for grabs this summer. A particular name of interest to Fulham will be striker Alvaro Negredo. The 27 year old Spaniard scored 21 goals in La Liga last season and has been brandished with a €25m price tag as a result. Out of Fulham’s price range as it stands, Negredo is of particular interest having been a reported target back in 2009 prior to his move from Almeria to Sevilla. Should circumstances change and prices fall, chances are we could back an ambitious phone call to Spain.
Pablo Daniel Osvaldo
Another former Fulham target (a reported £10.5m bid was rejected by Espanyol prior to his move to Italy in 2011), Argentinian born Italian international Osvaldo has had something of a love hate relationship with his club Roma of late. Following a minimal substitute appearance in the Coppa Italia final loss to Lazio, Osvaldo tweeted his displeasure, telling coach Aurelio Andreazzoli to go and celebrate with the victorious archrivals, thus sealing his likely exit from the Italian capital. There will be bigger clubs than Fulham in for the striker who scored 16 Serie A goals this campaign, but with teammate Maarten Stekelenburg potentially coming to Craven Cottage stranger things have happened.
If you haven’t heard of Ivorian behemoth Wilfried Bony, get familiar. The 24 year old was this season’s top scorer in the Eredivisie, banging in 31 goals at better than a goal a game for unheralded Vitesse Arnhem. Fulham have reportedly scouted Bony, along with half of Europe, this season, and the player himself has signalled his intention to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Didier Drogba and move to England. This issue with Bony is price. Figures in the region of £15m have been mentioned, and it is hard to see Martin Jol splashing what would surely be his entire transfer budget on one player in a summer when we need 6 or 7. With our Dutch connections though, you can be sure Bony’s name has come up in conversation.
Mentioning Aubameyang in this piece serves merely to acknowledge the fact he’s alive and we’d be lucky to have him. That’s where it ends. The 23 year old Gabonese forward would be the perfect fit for Martin Jol’s expansive attacking line, able to slot happily up front or on either flank. Unfortunately, following a 19 goal Ligue 1 campaign for St Etienne, Aubameyang will be coveted by all corners of Europe, literally. Samuel Eto’o wants Anzhi Makhachkala to bring him to Dagestan, while the player himself admits talking to Bayer Leverkusen and Swansea, and also claims to be on Borussia Dortmund’s list to replace Robert Lewandowski. He’s also stated a desire to play in the Champions League.
The Bundesliga has proven happy hunting ground for Martin Jol in his transfer dealings of late. It is not inconceivable that we’ll be returning to Germany this summer. The first player I’d like to mention is Stefan Kie?ling, the Bayer Leverkusen German international, whose 25 goals earned him the Golden Boot in Germany’s top division this season. At 29, he’s no spring chicken, but that fits Fulham’s age profile, and is still considerably younger than outgoing Bundesliga recruit from last summer Mladen Petric. His age is also likely to prove his downfall is looking for a move to a major side, who would usually baulk at signing someone so close to 30. With teammate Andre Schurrle seemingly on his way to Chelsea, they could bulk buy boxes for the move to West London.
The second German on this list is a little more obscure. Daniel Ginczek, the Borussia Dortmund youngster, scored 18 goals from 31 appearances on loan at St Pauli in the German second division last season. At 22, he looks to be on his way out of Dortmund this summer, but has insisted his immediate future lies in Germany. Still, should Fulham be looking to get younger, as we hope they are, a striker who can learn from, and then replace, Berbatov would seem to be the order of the day, and Ginczek fits that bill nicely.
Collecting the Airmiles
Fulham need to get smarter in the transfer window. Instead of signing a player from an established league an inflated mark-up, it is high time our scouts started ensuring we skipped the middle man and sign players straight from source. In the youth ranks, this is already taking place, with youngsters from countries such as Israel, Scotland, Slovakia, France, Sweden and Denmark already lighting a path to senior football. One such league that could benefit Fulham at First Team level is the Danish SuperLiga. With strong rumours in January suggesting Fulham heavily scouted FC Nordsjaelland centre half Jores Okore, there is a decent chance our scouts have seen the following two players in action.
22 year old Brondby hitman Simon Makienok has taken Denmark by the scruff of the neck in recent months. Scoring 15 goals in 30 appearances with 4 assists, making up a whopping 38% of his team’s goals, Makienok was one of the few bright sparks in a disappointing season for Brondby. Seemingly ready for a step up, Makienok could be worth a punt with a major outlay unlikely to be required to tempt him away from the western Copenhagen suburbs.
Slightly more heralded than Makienok, FC Copenhagen striker Andreas Cornelius is probably the hottest property in Scandinavia. Coming off a season where he scored 18 goals as the club from the capital regained the league crown, the 20 year old is likely to be a target for many of Europe’s premier mid-table clubs. Similarly named Nicklas Helenius from Aalborg has reportedly been scouted by several English clubs, FFC amongst them, with 16 goals, from a role largely as a second striker, unlikely to have harmed his reputation. Elsewhere in Scandinavia, Zden?k Ondrášek, the former Czech Under-21 striker was last season’s top scorer in Norway, where he plies his trade for Tromso, the team with which Fulham have a feeder club style agreement. Partizan Belgrade’s Serbian starlet Lazar Markovic is another off radar talent; the £6m rated 19 year old is a reported target for Chelsea but is represented by the same agency as Fulham January almost signing Nikola Maksimovic, whose move from Red Star Belgrade fell through because of a work permit issue.
Domestic transfers can often be as hit and miss as the as obscure, pluck from nowhere foreign import variety. Success elsewhere is no guarantee of replication. Experience of British football does however, provide for the benefit of minimal physical transition – for despite his lack of finishing ability, you cannot argue against Hugo Rodallega’s physical ability and effort levels, which are unquestionably superb. Clint Dempsey on the other hand took a full year to develop the physical attributes to allow for his natural ability to show through. There are several strikers plying their trades on these fair shores, that I have no doubt will have crossed the radar of the men with the money at Motspur Park.
A player we should have signed last summer in my mind. The criminally high price offered by Blackburn’s clueless owners Venky’s annoyingly raised the bar for what Huddlesfield could demand for the Premiership calibre hitman. 28 goals in the Championship followed 39 in League One the previous season. The biggest hurdle to signing Rhodes will be Rovers’ insistence on recouping their sizeable outlay from last summer. Rhodes deserves his shot at the Premier League, compared to some of the cheap imports that litter top flight squads, another season in the Championship would prove unjust for the best striker in English football outside the top division.
Adam Le Fondre
When I tweeted an idea of picking up ALF from relegated Reading following their unceremonious manhandling of us at the Cottage in April, I was met with a barrage of negative comments. Prejudice no doubt stemming from Le Fondre’s years spent climbing the domestic footballing pyramid. 12 goals in the Premier League, 8 of which came off the bench, could lead to Le Fondre being just what Fulham need from a striker this summer – someone to come off the bench late to complement or replace Berbatov. We’ve also not had a proficient substitute counter attacker since Erik Nevland retired. Le Fondre’s relatively cheap price tag would also free up major capital for the central midfielder we more urgently need.
Should relegated or almost relegated players be your cup of tea, we could do a lot worse than stealing Loic Remy from QPR, the Frenchman proving a rare bright spot in an otherwise catastrophic failure of a season at Loftus Road, or indeed long term press hang up Darren Bent, whose undeniable poaching ability would not go amiss.
The final profile on my list is that of Loughton born Hooper. At 25, he’s entering his prime years stuck in exile at Celtic where he can collect league titles ad nauseam should he wish. My guess though, is that he isn’t satisfied. Like several other Celtic players, he rebuffed offers to come south in January with the lure of Celtic’s last 16 Champions League tie with Juventus too good to ignore. With dreams of Eurpoean glory long gone the way of competition in the SPL, it’s time Hooper returned to England. As a back up for Berbatov, Hooper could provide the finisher we’ve lacked since Clint moved to Spurs. Elsewhere, Manchester City’s forgotten wunderkind John Guidetti could well look to leave Eastlands following an injury hit spell for their Under 21s, but 20 goals in 23 appearances on loan at Feyenoord in 2012 indicate this youngster has what it takes.
There you have it. That’s my take on the European striker market this summer. There are obviously a thousand and one names I haven’t mentioned, but hopefully this gave you a flavour of what’s out there.