Scottish international Cairney has been managing a knee problem throughout pre-season which has limited his ability to impress Fulham’s new manager at Motspur Park. The 30 year-old hasn’t featured since Fulham’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle last December and is some weeks away from a possible return.
Silva told the press this afternoon: “Tom, in this moment, is not fit yet. We are working with him to get him, as soon as we can, fully fit and in condition to show his quality. He is a key player for us, a really important player for us. He will be a key player for me, for sure, and Fulham Football Club. It’s up to us to get him in better condition as soon as possible because he is really important on the pitch and off it.”
Kongolo, who has endured two injury-plagued spells at Craven Cottage, was injured early in his return to the Fulham first team after coming off worse in a tackle with Wolves winger Adama Traore in April. The 27 year-old has made four appearances for Fulham and Silva knows he will need to be patient with the Dutch centre back. “We hope he’ll be ready soon, but it’s not an easy thing and over the next few weeks we have to see how he can be,” he said.
Silva also reiterated that he believes Fulham should be able to retain the services of their key performers as they plan for an immediate return to the top flight. “I’m still really confident that we can keep our best players… as a manager you cannot say you are 100 per cent sure…(but) until now, I haven’t seen one sign that someone will leave the club,” he added.
O Dia journalist Vene Casagrande reports that Fulham chief executive Alistair Mackintosh made contact with the Flamengo board this afternoon to finalise the details of the transfer. The structure of the deal to bring the 20 year-old to Craven Cottage on a permanent basis appears to be an approximate £3.4m up front free followed by a second instalment of around £3.4m. Flamengo will also be entitled to around 20% of any future sale of the youngster. Mackintosh’s intervention appears to have assured the Brazilian side’s board – and the transfer could be completed as early as tomorrow.
The influence of new Fulham manager Marco Silva also appears pivotal in convincing Muniz to pick the London club ahead of Middlesbrough, who also submitted a bid to Flamengo for the forward. Muniz is understood to have been impressed that Silva telephoned the young striker personally to talk through his ideas for his progress at Fulham and suggesting that he could repeat the sort of progress Richarlison made in English football when Silva signed him for Watford.
Muniz, who broke into the Flamengo first team as they clinched the Brazilian title last year, is believed to have verbally agreed a five-year contract at Craven Cottage and would initially be an understudy to Aleksandar Mitrovic, whom Silva described as Fulham’s ‘key player’ this afternoon in his first press conference as the club’s head coach.
On the eve of the new season, Marco Silva is carefully evaluating the squad he has been bequeathed down at Motspur Park. He has spoken this afternoon of his desire to strengthen his squad further still in advance of the opening fixture against Middlesbrough on Sunday, but there still plenty of imponderables as we try to second guess the Portuguese head coach’s preferred starting eleven. With so much of pre-season held behind closed doors, the fans are still in the dark as to Silva’s top pairings throughout the side – especially at centre back.
Every successful side has a strong spine and that usually starts from the heart of the defence. Fulham are currently blessed with a surfeit of centre backs and almost all of them have significant Championship experience. American Tim Ream now probably fits snugly into the stalwart category, having made 213 appearances for Fulham, and although the veteran didn’t have the best of times in the top flight, he shone in Slavisa Jokanovic’s promotion season and has never let the Whites down in the second tier. Ream has racked up 260 Championship appearances and knows what he takes to thrive in one of the most competitive divisions around.
Given how impressively he began life at Craven Cottage, the fact that Tosin Adarabioyo remains at Craven Cottage – with no Premier League side seeing fit to trigger his £10m release clause this summer – seems like a real bonus. Adarabioyo honed his raw talent in the Championship, making 63 appearances in strong loan spells with West Bromwich Albion and Blackburn Rovers, which fuelled his desire for first-team football. A physically strong defender with an eye for a pass, Adarabioyo’s level might have dipped in the final weeks of the season – with a couple of costly mistakes creeping in – but you would expect the Fulham back four to be built around his immense talent.
Michael Hector had an almost as encouraging opening to his Fulham career after making the short move from Stamford Bridge last summer – and enduring a lengthy wait to pull on the white shirt. He stepped into a shaky back line as if he’d been playing there for years, immediately providing solidity and a physical presence that Scott Parker’s side had been sorely missing. But the mystifying collapse that came after the Whites went up left the man cheekily dubbed ‘Virgil van Mike’ looking completely clueless. His shakiness in a possession mirrored that of a schoolboy rather than the confident defender that had bossed games at the lower level and he was twice caught alarmingly out of position at Leeds before that shocking display at Brentford. There is a clearly good player there – as evidenced by that remarkable saving tackle at Cardiff in the play-off semi-final – and if Hector, who has 173 Championship appearances to his name and is fresh from helping Jamaica reach the quarter finals of the Gold Cup, can recapture the form of his early weeks at Fulham then he might be able to force his way into Silva’s plans.
We’ve still not really seen enough of Terence Kongolo to make an accurate assessment of his ability. The Dutch defender made one magnificent tackle during an otherwise unforgettable FA Cup defeat at Manchester City and promptly injured himself as the Whites were clinging to a narrow lead at Blackburn. Bringing him back on a permanent basis was clearly predicated on his strong displays at Huddersfield, but keeping him fit will be Marco Silva’s biggest challenge. Kongolo has now resumed full training and, if he can show the pedigree that saw him shine for AK Almaar and become part of the Dutch squad that finished third in the 2014 World Cup, then you wouldn’t bet against him muscling his way back in.
The other injury prone centre back on the staff at Fulham is Alfie Mawson, whose £20m capture in the summer of 2018 looked like good business after his eye-catching displays with Swansea had lifted him to the cusp of an England call-up. We all know that Mawson never really got a run in the side and has endured horrendous luck with injuries, which only continued when he badly injured his knee shortly after being handed the captaincy during a strong start to his loan spell at Bristol City last season. Mawson’s ability has never been in doubt and the ball-playing centre half seems to have shed some timber in a bid to impress Silva but it will all rest upon whether he can remain consistently available for selection.
Beyond those four, Silva still has options should he need them. The versatile Denis Odoi will always have his own place in Fulham folklore for any number of reasons – that ridiculous backflick against Newcastle on debut, his majestic header against Derby and the dancing on the crossbar at Wembley after promotion had been secured against Aston Villa – but it is difficult to see the Belgian getting a great deal of game time, given that Fulham also have three right backs competing against him in his other favoured position. Maxime Le Marchand has also been linked with a move away this summer, with the Frenchman’s catchy song certainly exceeding his footballing ability. Jerome Opoku, who will turn 23 by the end of the season, is poised to move to Denmark on loan – which suggests he is unlikely to figure in Silva’s long-term plans.
The new boss could conceivably want to introduce his own centre half into the club, but it probably wouldn’t be the most effective use of scant FFP headroom at this point. Plenty of Championship managers would kill for the sort of depth Fulham currently possess at centre back – the key will now be moulding a partnership to withstand the rigours of England’s second tier. Silva has been characterised as an offensive manager, but he spoke this afternoon of how much he likes a clean sheet. Solid defences win championships – and Fulham appear well stocked in that department.
Fulham full back Joe Bryan ‘can’t wait’ to play in front of the Craven Cottage faithful again as the Whites end their pre-season programme against Charlton Athletic on Saturday.
The likeable left back told Fulham FC TV this afternoon that he is hoping Marco Silva’s side can put on a good show in their last warm-up ahead of the new Championship campaign.
“I can’t wait. It’s been a long time. I know we had them there a couple of times last year, but it didn’t feel like a proper, full capacity and that sort of stuff so it will be nice to see everyone with a smile on their face, nice weather and we’ll have fun. They’re obviously a tough outfit, they’ll be looking to get the best result possible and to play against an English team with that mentality that we’ll be up against a lot this season is the best way to finish off our pre-season.”
Bryan believes Fulham are heading into the last few days of pre-season in good shape after adjusting to Silva’s methods effectively following the Portuguese head coach’s arrival as Scott Parker’s successor.
“Training’s been good. Lots of tactics eleven v eleven and shape and learning how the new management want us to play. It’s been fun. Every pre season is hard work. It’s been hard. You have to get fit. You have four or five weeks off, you lose match fitness and concentration and we’ve been trying to build that back up. One more game this weekend and we’ll be ready to kick it off against Middlesbrough.
“It’s been really fun. I’ve enjoyed the new ways of training – I think it is a nice change. There’s new things to try and learn and implement on the pitch. Structure and fast attacking. Hopefully, that’s what we can bring back to the Cottage this season.”
New Fulham head coach Marco Silva has told his first press conference that Aleksandar Mitrovic will be the club’s ‘key player’ as he targets an immediate return to the top flight.
The Serbian striker had been linked with a move away from Craven Cottage this summer after only starting eleven Premier League games under Scott Parker last season, but the Portuguese boss has wasted little time in emphasising just how important Fulham’s number nine is to his plans for promotion.
Silva said: “I think for all our football club and for the fans Mitro is a key player for us. Last season was not the best season for him, we know that and he knows that but we are here to support him and help him score important. I know his quality, I was really happy to work with him before I started. I tried to work with him twice before – he will be a key player for us”.
The former Everton and Watford manager said it was an ‘easy decision’ to accept Fulham’s approach to succeed Parker.
“I’m really happy to be back in England. It’s been a target to come back. To be honest it was an easy decision, I was close to joining a different club but I really appreciated the interest the club showed in ourselves, from [chief executive] Alastair [Mackintosh] and then [director of football] Tony [Khan] and [owner] Mr [Shahid] Khan was very important for us. Of course Fulham is a club with a big story and we want to be part of this project.”
Silva underlined the importance of former Fulham favourite Luis Boa Morte, who returned to Motspur Park this week, as his right hand man.
“I’ve known Luis since he was fourteen years old. We are friends for nineteen years. He joined me at Everton and now at Fulham. He is so important. He knows Fulham so well, he has a big history here.”
Silva confirmed that new signing Paulo Gazzaniga will provide ‘competition’ for Marek Rodak in goal and Welsh winger Harry Wilson, who arrives from Liverpool, will offer ‘creativity’. He is keen to make further additions before the start of the Championship campaign.
“I’m here working with the football club to get our squad stronger, this is the main thing for me, I know what I want from the football club. Now I will finish the third week working with them. We don’t finish, for sure we don’t finish. We are working with the club. When the market is open anything can happen.”
The Fulham boss has already made promotion his target, but knows just how competitive the Championship will be.
“It’s a clear aim for us. Not just us, there are five six clubs. The competition will be tough. But it’s our target. We have to compete and show that in every matchday. We have to show and make our fans feels we are giving 100 per cent in football matches. After that, good things, will come.”
The Londoners have finally switched to a permanent deal for the 20 year-old striker after facing defeat in their duel with Middlesbrough for the Brazilian forward. Boro had earlier put together their own bid for Nunez and were considered the frontrunners to snare one of the Rio giants’ brightest talents after Saudi side Al-Nassr had dropped out of contention.
But with Marco Silva insistent that his new club should continue to try and bring one of his favoured targets to Craven Cottage, Fulham have satisfied Flamengo’s preference for an immediate sale with a structured deal designed to allow them to meet the EFL’s financial fair play regulations. Brazilian newspaper O Dia reports that they have offered an initial £5.1m up front with a further £1.7m to be paid in a second instalment.
Brazilian journalist Venê Casagrande claims that Muniz, who has scored ten goals in 32 games since breaking into the Flamengo side, would prefer a move to Fulham as he is keen to work with Silva, who made reference to his success in developing Richarlison after bringing him from Brazil to England when he held discussions with the forward’s representatives last week.
Fulham are awaiting a response from Flamengo after submitting a second offer for forward Rodrigo Muniz – with reports from Brazil suggesting that a decision could come as soon as later today.
UOL columnist Bruno Andrade claims that Fulham’s second loan bid for the 20 year-old is at the behest of new coach Marco Silva, who is a huge admirer of the young striker. Fulham’s new approach to sign Muniz is understood to be a loan with a mandatory purchase obligation – at around £8.5m – and Flamengo will discuss whether to accept it in a new round of discussions in Lisbon today.
The battle for Muniz’s signature now seems to be a straight fight between Fulham and their opponents on the Championship’s opening weekend, Middlesbrough. Boro sent a delegation, including chief executive Neil Bausor and first-team coach Leo Percovich, to Portugal to discuss their bid for the striker on Monday – although their offer is also understood to be a loan, with Flamengo having initially hoped to conclude a permanent transfer this summer.
Al-Nasr appear to be out of the running for Muniz as Flamengo have ended negotiations after the Saudi Arabian side had offered around £3.4 for half of the striker’s economic rights. Muniz, widely considered to be one of the brightest Brazilian domestic talents, has scored ten goals in 33 appearances since breaking into the Flamengo first team last year.
The 20 year-old, brother of Chelsea striker Tammy, was on trial with Cheltenham Town during pre-season but Michael Duff decided against going ahead with a loan deal despite Abraham scoring twice against Kidderminister Harriers in a pre-season friendly. Fulham are keen for the forward to gain further first-team experience after largely unsuccessful loan spells with Plymouth Argyle, Bristol Rovers and Raith Rovers in the past year.
Abraham told the Newport County website: “I’m raring to go and I just want to show the fans what I’m capable of doing on the pitch. I like the ambition of the club and how they always want to push forward, and the style of play suits me as well so that’s something I can hopefully take advantage of and score some goals.”
Manager Michael Flynn said: “Timmy is still a young player with a bright future ahead of him, so I’m pleased that we’ve been able to get him on board for the new season. He’s already had some experience playing in League One and enjoyed a few loan spells away from Fulham, so hopefully he can play a part in helping us get to the next level. I want to thank Fulham for their help in the loan and for trusting us to play a part in Timmy’s development.”
Owls boss Darren Moore confirmed after last night’s win at Port Vale that the young Fulham winger had gone back to London, despite impressing him during his fortnight with the League One club. The 19 year-old featured in three matches for Wednesday and Fulham were willing to let the young prospect leave Craven Cottage on a temporary basis to further his development, but they will now consider his next move before the start of the EFL campaign.
The former England youth international, who extended his contract until 2023 last summer, has made three senior appearances for the Whites since being handed his debut by Scott Parker in an FA Cup defeat at Manchester City two years ago.