The Premier League is unforgiving for young players in general, the speed and physicality of modern football at the very top can often become a deer in the headlights effect for those early in their professional career. For Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon, he came into the top division with a few years of flurrying media buzz as at 16 and 17 years old, the former left-back now winger has shone in the Sky Bet Championship playing with relative comfort. Two seasons in the second division has delivered the Roehampton born midfielder with two Team of the Year appearances, a Championship Player of the Season, a Championship Young Player of the Season and Championship Apprentice Award.
With awards and honours of this magnitude for a teenager understandably sees the football media discuss the vultures circling to prey on another talent from a smaller club. As Fulham FC were promoted with a reputation of swaggering, sexy football fronted by the future of the England national team all eyes were on South West London and Sessegnon to provide a pizazz outside of the top six. Alas, the season hasn’t quite gone how either party would have planned sees Fulham in a more vulnerable position to predators with young Ryan Sessegnon a prime feast.
The England under-21 international season has been fine, though many have may have bizarrely expected more of an 18-year-old in his first season of Premier League football, I believe that to play in a relegated team that has largely been poor alongside a spell on the sidelines as part of Ranieri’s exodus and still come up with contributing eight goals is strong. He has to get better physically, has to do a better job with retaining possession of the ball but while his goal opportunities are fewer and farther between, he’s had a nice season in that regard.
So what happens now? Ryan Sessegnon turns 19 years old in May, his current contract at Fulham Football Club is up in 2020 and he has scored 25 goals and by the last game against Newcastle at Craven Cottage, he’ll likely make his 120th appearance. As much as I would love to see the day that a young academy product with talent could break Johnny Haynes’ appearance record (658 which has stood strong since 1970) or Gordon Davies’ goal record (178 across two spells, the last of which in 1991); you must understand that modern football is much more financially fuelled with a top-heavy monopoly unlikely to be tested bar mass rule changes. There’s only so long a club like Fulham can reject millions of pounds and there’s only so long an individual (and his agent) can reject millions of pounds of personal wealth, European football, a greater chance of national recognition and more sponsorship offers.
Today’s Evening Standard (I’m writing on the 30th April 2019) is suggesting that Tottenham lead the way for our young winger with a £20m-£25m, a price tag which would represent Fulham’s biggest sale but a year removed from the figure discussed being £50m. As fans, we’ll likely never know what the true figure is but using £25m as a point, Fulham could keep Ryan Sessegnon for the remaining year of his contract knowing he can produce in the Championship and promotion would likely financially benefit the football club far greater. The risk you do play is not getting promoted and you lose the best player the academy has produced for a pittance in compensation should he move abroad. In this case, if Ryan Sessegnon was to remain in England, you can take the financial compensation to tribunal but may not receive the money for a while. In June 2015, Danny Ings left Burnley and moved to Liverpool following the expiration of his contract. The two clubs had a period of discussion but took the case to a tribunal which decided that Burnley receive £6.5m, £1.5m in performance-related extras, as well as 20% from the fee, should Liverpool sell – but this was not resolved until the following April.
Borussia Dortmund, Paris St Germain, Juventus, Manchester United, and Liverpool join Tottenham as premium destinations for Ryan Sessegnon and all have benefits for different reasons. From seeing success and playing with friends to playing with superstars via joining up with a coach with renowned expertise in giving opportunities to and developing young players. The humble boy from Roehampton has heard it all since he was 15 but now it feels real and true possibility. Upon signing his first contract with the club, Ryan was quoted as saying “Last season I got a lot of opportunities so I want to continue that. When you are young you just want to play as many games as you can.” Barring the disastrous Claudio Ranieri experiment, Ryan Sessegnon has continued to play on a weekly basis and having publicly backed former teammate Scott Parker to take the reigns on a permanent basis, maybe (just maybe) the opportunity to continue to play games, to win promotion again and to play under a coach he believes in and knows could convince him to stay. In an interview with Sky Sports, Ryan Sessegnon was coy about his future at the football club, “I’m still a Fulham player, contracted until 2020, So I’m still a Fulham player and in terms of that, that’s all I can say at the moment.”
This was never to be a piece on what I think will happen, or what Ryan should do or what the club will do. Simply laying out the possibilities of sell, keep or keep and extend. Ryan’s future is undoubtedly above Fulham and in an expected summer of an overhaul, the eyes on Ryan Sessegnon’s future will be most pressing as the boy with the world at his feet has an international and European future ahead of him. Is now the time? I could say ask Wilfried Zaha how his experience was jumping from Crystal Palace to Manchester and the response could easily be, “what about Dele Alli from MK Dons to Tottenham?” Whatever happens, I think Ryan has the support of all in the Fulham family in and out of the Motspur Park doors. He’s seen the support he has from the crowd both home and away and I’m speaking for us all, but I think if he chose to move on, we hope it’s too the right club that can treat him how he should be treated and harness that talent that has representing Fulham since under 9s football.