Neeskens Kebano wasn’t exactly a household name when he joined Fulham in 2016. Football fans are now understandably wary of a well-put together Youtube highlight reel that can make anyone appear a world beater, but there is something about a tricky little winger that gets the pulse racing. The Congolese winger had a promising debut just days after arriving at Blackburn and contributed crucial goals as the Whites climbed the table in the second half of the season under Slavisa Jokanovic, but could never nail down a place in the side.
He had almost drifted out of the picture entirely when his energy, drive and some sensational free-kicks enlivened Fulham’s run to – and, indeed, through the Championship play-offs. His reward for injecting some life in what was a pretty predictable side was scant, though, becoming one of those laudable club servants who were jettisoned during another dismal Premier League campaign. Kebano ended the season on loan at Middlesbrough and you could have been forgiven for thinking the likeable winger’s Fulham career was over.
There’s no greater indication of the fact that Marco Silva offered a clean slate for everyone that the way Kebano has gradually become one of the key components of this adventurous side. He started the season in the side as injuries denied Fulham the services of some key players and a brilliant display at Millwall showed that he had the potential to deliver at this level. If there was ever any doubt about his value, Kebano proved he is more than just flicks and tricks on his way to terrorising countless full backs and seizing his chance to impress after Ivan Cavaleiro got injured.
It isn’t fanciful to suggest that a former Fulham favourite might have also helped this revival. Luis Boa Morte was also a character who added pace and excitement to a very watchable Whites side from the wide positions. A left winger by trade, Boa Morte is now Silva’s number two at Craven Cottage and it isn’t difficult to discern his own influence on Kebano’s more consistent displays. Where we once wondered about an end product, the Congolese winger has added four goals and five assists already – just two goals short of his best scoring return for Fulham, which came in his very first season by the Thames.
Such is the scale of the turnaround that Kebano has become one of the first names on Silva’s teamsheet. He is revelling in the freedom to express himself in a Fulham side that looks frightening each time they go forward and, should he stay injury free, there’s no reason why the cheeky chappy can’t put together a season to remember.