Kasami turns 21 today. Fulham’s ‘forgotten man’ so to speak, scored yesterday in Luzern’s 4-3 win, closing the curtain on the Swiss season and his loan spell out there in style. He returned to his native country during the winter transfer window – after a loan move to Italian outfit Pescara collapsed because of faulty WiFi at his agent’s hotel (you couldn’t make it up) – in what I think everyone is hoping will be what will finally kickstart his Fulham career.
Initially, it didn’t look like Kasami’s Fulham career would need any kickstarting whatsoever. Signed for £3.5m from Palermo as a 19 year old after having appeared 20 times for them the previous season (no mean feat, considering Javier Pastore was his competition), he came and immediately made an impression with a slew of impressive cameos, none moreso than when he came off the bench against Man City 2-0 down to replace Duff and provided the dynamism that we were so badly lacking until that point. He didn’t seem to have any real limitations, having been blessed with both the frame of a real athlete and skilled feet in equal measure.
So, his time here was going oh so well until that incident against Chelsea. A quick reminder: Carling Cup away match, 0-0, both teams playing reserve sides effectively, Frei wins a penalty and instead of letting designated striker Orland Sa take it Kasami defies team orders and misses the spot kick. Kasami was fined a small amount for the incident and you would have hoped bygones would be bygones, but he has appeared to have been frozen out ever since.
It’s a strange one. He hasn’t looked nearly as clever in his appearances after January 2012 (let me remind you that during that transfer window Juventus declared their interest in the youngster, demonstrating how rated he is). When last season we were crying out for someone like Kasami to fill in in midfield, to pick up the ball and carry it in the middle, he didn’t get a look in. I don’t know why, I really do not. If it is because Jol hold’s a grudge then I would be worried about our manager’s pettiness, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume the midfielder’s form really has fallen off that badly.
Above: Kasami scored a wonderful goal for Swiss outfit Lizern yesterday, as well as picking up an assist (skip to 2:20)
It would be a great shame if Kasami didn’t have a career with us. But, with all the bodies leaving this summer and our weakness in midfield, there is probably one final opportunity for him to be here. Kasami is Jol’s player, and I don’t doubt that Jol will want him to do well, but realistically a player like that, who has the attributes but not the experience, desperately needs exposure on the football pitch in order to develop as he should.
So, firstly, is there a place for Kasami at Fulham? Yes, definitely. There is no competition directly with Ruiz at the moment for that role behind Berbatov, but that is Kasami’s natural place on the football pitch! Why sign (rumoured transfer target) Romain Amalifitano of Marseille, who is a (very) good player but was unremarkable last season, a man seven years Kasami’s senior and plays in exactly the same positions, when we have a talented young player here already? How about instigating a Dembele-esque shift in position so Kasami is a central midfielder, and can use his terrific athleticism, flair and impressive passing range to inject some impetus into our midfield? Maybe Jol seems him as a right midfielder but Damien Duff, a fellow left footer, will be bowing out of his footballing career soon. Maybe Kasami can rise from his ashes.
Secondly, is there a place for Kasami under Jol? I’d say so. Clearly, there are some personality differences which Jol has referenced previously, insofar as Kasami thinks he is far better than he is. Whether that has lead to confrontation I do not know and there is nothing to suggest that, but the Swiss has definitely fallen out of favour. However, there are two things that remind me that this is not maybe as big an issue as it appears like its playing out to be: A) Dempsey was similarly big headed but that was, in the end, the secret to his success and B) despite being courted by Italian giant Juventus 18 months ago Kasami actively stated he wanted to stay here and fight for his place. So while there may be some mental flaws there to be ironed out, there’s definitely a sense of determination.
Maybe there’s a sense that the less we see of Kasami the better we think he is, like with Marcel Gecov, who we all thought was going to run our midfield before long but is now living out an undistinguished career in Eastern Europe. But I do like him. I think that, as I said before, he has very little weakness in his play overall, a vibrant attitude on the pitch and an endearing personality (I remember when, against Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League, he fell behind some advertising hoardings before popping just his eyes over to look back on the pitch, a funny moment). I also don’t doubt that he had a crisis in confidence, and I hope that his regular play in Switzerland over the last few months has reignited his spark. I mean, say now we were offered a Swiss 21 year old for free with a high reputation but a shaky couple of years; we wouldn’t say no and write them off, would we? Let’s hope that this next step for Pajtim Kasami is not his final one at Fulham Football Club.