Fulham co-owner and director of football Tony Khan has told the Daily Mail that ‘he had to beg’ Aleksandar Mitrovic to stay at Craven Cottage after the Whites were relegated under Scott Parker.

Serbia’s record international goalscorer looked set to leave SW6 after Fulham had dropped down to the Championship, with Parker playing brinkmanship between his then employers and AFC Bournemouth. In an interview to promote tonight’s AEW pay-per-view show in Newark, Khan reveals that convincing the talismanic number nine to sign a new deal last summer was far from straightforward:

“One of the most important things I think we did in the beginning, as we were making the transition with coaching, and right as Marco [Silva] was coming in, I was working really hard to keep Mitro at the club. And I really basically had to beg him. And even then he had to be re-committed to Fulham. He had to be re-committed and we had to find our way in the summer of 2021. 

And I remember we’d been back on the road touring for AEW for a month, and I think I was in Houston on August 18, and I talked to Mitro in the dressing room, and I was just so excited because he’d just signed his new contract. And I was like yelling, and people around the corner thought something was wrong. I was like: ‘no, it’s a good thing!”

Khan, the son of chairman Shahid Khan, considers Mitrovic’s arrival – initially on loan four years ago – at the Cottage and buying him from Newcastle after Slavisa Jokanovic’s side secured promotion via the play-offs to be the most important signings he has made.

When Mitro came over, that was one of the most important things I think we ever did. I think it was in January 2018, taking Mitro on loan from Newcastle, and then in the summer of 2018, people say I did a lot of crazy stuff in the summer of 2018, but I think one thing we definitely did right was purchase Mitro’s contract from Newcastle. Believe me, it wasn’t easy. Mike Ashley and I went head-to-head on that one, big time. That was a good thing we got it done.

He is encouraged by Fulham’s fine start under Silva this season, with six first-team players – including Mitrovic – poised to play for their countries at the World Cup, which kicks off in Qatar tomorrow.

It’s tremendous to see the results this season have been strong, and we want to keep fighting. We have a lot of goals to hopefully achieve at the end of the season, and it’s off to a very strong start. We have learned a lot, but we’ve had some success over the years, and I think finding a way to make it translate to the Premier League and also managing to keep the stability in the squad while adding new faces, it’s a challenge to find that balance, but I really believe we’ve found a great balance. 

I think so many of the new players have come in and really helped the squad find their way in the Premier League. It’s also been a huge effort from some of the players that have been with the squad, some of them for years. And it’s really neat to see the evolution of the squad under Marco.