It took a while for Fulham’s summer transfer business to begin, but when it did it started in style. The purchase of Jean-Michael Seri looked audacious from the outset, especially for a newly-promoted side, but it lays down a marker to the rest of the Premier League that Fulham aren’t around to make up the numbers. Tony Khan and his recruitment team have had their share of flak over the past eighteen months, but pulling off a deal of this magnitude is a serious statement of intent.
Seri, a player capable of playing both in the number six role that Kevin McDonald has made his own during his brief time at Craven Cottage, and as a more advanced playmaker has been one of the most consistent performers in France during his time with Nice. Khan might be a fan of statistics – and the fact that the Ivorian’s numbers looked far better than the much-vaunted Marco Verratti over the last nine months won’t have gone unnoticed – but it is Seri’s football intelligence that makes this deal such a boost to Slavisa Jokanovic. He led the French league for the number of passes completed and passes played, which means he will fit perfectly into Jokanovic’s possession-based brand of football. Now, the Serbian head coach has two central midfield craftsman to share the load of unlocking England’s best defences. Perhaps Stefan Johansen will have to settle for a spot on the bench.
Seri’s arrival could just be the start of a serious summer of squad strengthening down at Motspur Park. Fulham will need it – because their squad currently looks more than a little threadbare for the challenge of going toe to toe with the Premier League. That purchase might also make it a little easier to entice some of Europe’s more talented performers to Craven Cottage and the marquee nature of this signing has some echoes of the last time the Whites reached England football’s top tier and promptly shocked the world by bringing in Edwin van der Sar for £7m from Juventus.
The Ivorian has been followed to west London by his old Nice team-mate Maxime Le Marchand, a strong and versatile defender, who also likes to play the ball out from the back. His natural position could see him fit in snugly alongside last season’s player of the year, Tim Ream, at the heart of the Fulham defence. La Marchand, who counts significant European experience amongst his pedigree from years in French football, can also play at left back, where he filled for much of his last campaign with Nice as they struggled for quality cover in that position.
Perhaps more importantly, Khan and Fulham know their work isn’t done. Press reports from England this afternoon suggested they might be about to join Wolves in the race to sign Oleksandar Zinchenko, who hasn’t really had a fair crack of the whip at Manchester City as of yet. The Whites have also been linked with moves for two World Cup stars, Ilya Kutepov of Russia and Sweden’s Ludwig Augustinsson, who would further strengthen their defence. All that goes alongside the ongoing pursuit of last season’s striking sensation Aleksandar Mitrovic, who made such a difference in the second half of the season when he joined on loan from Newcastle.
There’s certainly no indication that Fulham will doing this on the cheap. Buried deep in that Telegraph article was the assertion that contract talks between the club and Jokanovic, the man who has re-shaped both the club and his playing staff from the bottom up in his three years at the Cottage, are progressing well. It doesn’t appear as if this transfer window will contain the Serbian’s usual outburst about a lack of transfer activity. Good things come to those who wait.