Fulham boss Felix Magath admits he could lose his battle to keep teen sensation Patrick Roberts if a Champions League club make a bid for him.
The west Londoners made it through the summer without losing their most prized asset but that might not be the case when the transfer window reopens in January.
Roberts made his first-team debut as a substitute in the 5-0 defeat away at Manchester City in March and also impressed in the club’s run to the FA Youth Cup Final.
Arsenal and Liverpool were linked with the 17-year-old but interest cooled over the summer as both sides concentrated on big-name targets such as Mario Balotelli and Alexis Sanchez.
Magath has already used 24 players this season and, like most of his teammates, Roberts has struggled to hold down a regular starting place in the early weeks of the campaign.
The playmaker was only used as a late substitute in Fulham’s first two Championship fixtures before starting the disappointing defeats against Wolves and Derby. Since then he has been an unused substitute in the Capital One Cup win over Brentford and last weekend’s draw against Cardiff – Fulham’s first point of the season.
Despite his limited opportunities so far, Liverpool have once again been linked with a move. And Magath is realistic enough to accept that it would be difficult to keep hold of Roberts if a bid from Merseyside was forthcoming.
“I am not involved in contracts or changing players here and there – I have nothing to do with that,” Magath said when asked to put a valuation on Roberts.
“In football things change very fast. Sometimes you ask for a player and they say £3million – then they score two or three more goals and they ask for £10m. You cannot say he is worth this or that.
“We want to develop young players and it depends how good they are and how good we are. If the young players have a future we can give them the level they are ready to play at – then I hope they will stay here. But if we are not at that level and the player is extraordinarily good and there is interest from Champions League clubs then you will never be able to hold them, especially if the player doesn’t want to stay.”
Roberts said in July that his main aims for the season were restoring Fulham to the Premier League and continuing his own development by playing as many matches as possible.
But the club are second from bottom after five games and Magath has handed the playmaker just two League starts as he does not feel he is is ready for the physically demanding rigours of English football’s second-tier.
“This is the right way to develop but I have never said Patrick Roberts will play 46 games this season,” Magath said. “I know that he is not ready for the whole season. But he can help us in some cases and he has done very well.
“He has been doing well in the second half but if he starts from the beginning he is not always able to show us what he can do.”