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Kamara close to Fulham exit

Reports from Greece today claim that Fulham and Aris have finally agreed a fee for the permanent transfer of Aboubakar Kamara.

The Mauritanian international is expected in Greece imminently to finalise the deal, which could be announced within the next 24 hours. Previous talks between the parties had collapsed last month over the structure of a deal to take the 26 year-old forward to Thessaloniki, but today’s coverage suggests that an agreement has now been struck.

Kamara, signed from Amiens for around £5m in July 2017, has scored seventeen goals in 91 appearances for Fulham. He was part of two Championship promotion-winning teams but doesn’t appear to be in Marco Silva’s plans for the forthcoming campaign. His time at Craven Cottage wasn’t short of controversy. Kamara angered Claudio Ranieri after refusing to relinquish penalty taking duties to Aleksandar Mitrovic and missing a spot-kick against Huddersfield and was then involved in a scuffle with the Serbian during a yoga session.

He was loaned out to Turkish side Malatyaspor in January 2018 after being arrested on suspicion actual bodily harm and criminal damage after attacking a security guard as he sought to discuss his future with the club’s hierarchy at Motspur Park before Scott Parker reintegrated him into the first team squad.

Kamara scores in Millwall draw

Aboubakar Kamara scored Fulham’s equaliser as Marco Silva’s side continued their pre-season preparations with a 1-1 draw against Millwall at Calmont Road this afternoon.

The Whites went behind midway through the first half when Daniel Ballard climbed highest to head home a corner from former Fulham full back Scott Malone. Aleksandar Mitrovic went closest to grabbing an equaliser for the Cottagers when he rattled the woodwork with a free-kick before half time.

Fulham equalised shortly after the interval when Kamara lashed past Millwall goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski from long range after a clever bit of skill. It is understood that Fulham’s next summer test comes against Premier League side Southampton in another behind-closed-doors friendly on Saturday.

Aboubakar Kamara – A Changed Man

I was wrong about Aboubakar Kamara. Let’s bring ourselves back to January 2019 when the news was breaking out of Motspur Park that Kamara and Mitrovic got into a fight during a team yoga session. To this day we don’t have the full details of the bust up, but rumours of an arrest for actual bodily harm and criminal damage for the young French striker were rife at the time. And this had all come just two weeks after Kamara had refused to give the ball to Mitrovic to take a penalty in a crucial game against Huddersfield. Kamara went on to miss the spot, nearly throwing away a valuable win, only for Mitrovic to pop up in injury time with the eventual winner. It was another sign that things weren’t good behind the scenes at Fulham. Jokanovic was long gone and Claudio Ranieri wasn’t having the effect that Shad Khan had hoped.

When the news broke about the Motspur Park fight, my mind was made up. I wrote an article about how we needed to rid ourselves of the maverick striker. For me he was immature and having a huge detrimental effect on a team that was already badly struggling. We needed togetherness, not selfish individuals. I wanted him gone. The club sent him out on loan but I had my doubts about whether or not we would see the striker play for Fulham again. I pointed out that apart from a few impactful games in the Championship in the season before, we hadn’t really seen a striker who could really make a difference in the team. Even when he was causing problems for defences in the Championship, he would ruin a good performance with a blatant dive, or too many off-the-ball incidences. I had lost all patience.

I am so glad that the club saw something that I didn’t. Kamara came back from his loan stint at Yeni Malatyaspor in Turkey and we were told that the squad were happy to have him back. The club decided to nurture him rather than offload him. The combined effort of Mark Maunders, the player care manager, and the coaching staff have helped mould AK into the sort of player who we can trust. He has had an injury hit year, but has looked like a different player, and man, than he was the season before. His talent was so raw when he first came to us and his first touch left a lot to be desired, but that had massively improved. He has always had pace and strength, but now he has the game management and intelligent play that really makes a player a threat. Let’s not forget that he was trusted enough for the Wembley final in 2018, but back then I guess we were still worried that he would do something daft and get himself in trouble in the most important match for the club in years. This time around I wasn’t worried. Well, I was concerned about his fitness, but that was it. We had this crazy record last season were we did very well without Mitrovic in the side and AK was a big part of that early on. Despite not being used a lot, he stepped up and scored 2 against QPR, and has probably made more of an impact than Bobby Decordova Reid when asked to do the same thing.

He scored 4 and made 4 this season. Not outstanding, but those numbers don’t tell the whole story really. He offers us something completely different to our other attacking players, and now that he has improved his game management I think that a solid run in the side will see him provide more goals. He is proof that if you take the time to really nurture a player who is a bit rough around the edges, you can really make a difference. Some of the videos after the final last week show a squad that is united, and AK seemed to be in the middle of everything. One video of him with his arm around Stuart Gray told me everything that I needed to know. The coaching staff have him on side, and he has returned their faith.

I think AK could have a lot of fun in the Premier League next season. He looked so sharp when he came off the bench against Cardiff at the Cottage and then at Wembley, and if we can keep him fit, he could surprise a few opponents next season. I was wrong about him, and I’m so glad about it.

#COYW

AK Double sends Fulham Fourth

Fulham edged an entertaining West London Derby under the lights at Craven Cottage thanks to an Aboubakar Kamara double. Kamara caused a fair few raised eyebrows, including my own, when his name appeared on the team sheet, but he took a huge step towards proving that he is a solid stand in for the suspended Aleksander Mitrovic.

Atrocious defending gave Rangers the lead inside the first few minutes, with Joe Bryan caught out of position and then Marek Rodak pushing the ball into the path of Jordan Hugill for a simple finish. There have been so many question marks over our defence this season, and it doesn’t look as those questions will be going away anytime soon. Tim Ream played like his head was still on a plane somewhere travelling home from International duty, while we had too many players trying to over pass the ball.

While Rodak was poor for the opening goal, he did redeem himself on a few occasions throughout the first half with quick thinking to prevent Nahki Wells from getting a shot away when he was one on one, before making a crucial save from Hugill just before half time.

Our first goal came from the man who has divided opinion since his arrival at Craven Cottage. It was a brilliant piece of play and delivery from Denis Odoi, perfectly placed for Aboubakar Kamara to head home for his first goal of the night to draw Fulham level at the break.

The second half started on a more even footing, but still QPR were proving a threat from the wing-back positions and Alfie Mawson had to be at his best and block a number of shots and crosses in quick succession. Harrison Reed had to be replaced by Bobby Reid after picking up a knock early in the second half. Reid was straight into the action, carving out an opportunity for Anthony Knockaert instantly.

While the switch was forced, there can be no doubt that Reid made a difference to a Fulham team that had struggled to use the ball effectively in the first half. Stefan Johansen was pushed slightly further back to allow Cairney and Reid to roam forward, and Parker’s side became much more dangerous straight away. Fulham’s second of the night came from a high press, the sort of play that teams so often play against us. Bobby Reid gave QPR keeper Joe Lumley no time to think about his clearance, and he could only blast straight at Johansen. The Norwegian took one look, and released Kamara who maintained his composure and found the bottom corner to double the lead and his tally for the night. Fulham very nearly added a third within minutes, with Reid putting through Knockaert but the winger could only find the base of the post with his shot.

We have too often this season went into the closing stages of a game with a slender lead only to end up with a draw, so I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling uneasy about the last fifteen minutes but tonight seemed to be Fulham’s night. Some tenacious play from Ivan Cavaleiro in the final 10minutes was a particular highlight of mine as it shows that this Fulham team is becoming much better in terms of game management.

Kevin McDonald was brought on for Cavaleiro for the five minutes of injury time to help see Parker’s boys through to a second successive victory and to send them to fourth in the table ahead of the weekend’s games.

Job done in the first West London derby of the season at a time when Fulham have been under a great deal of pressure. While it wasn’t a perfect performance, it was the sort of game that we have failed to get points from in the past. We can be proud of our team tonight.

FULHAM (4-3-3): Rodak; Odoi, Bryan, Mawson, Ream; Reed (De Cordova-Reid 54), Johansen, Cairney; Knockaert (Christie 76), Cavaleiro (McDonald 90+1), Kamara. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, O’Riley, Onomah, Kebano.

BOOKED: Bryan.

GOALS: Kamara (27, 64).

QUEENS PARK RANGERS (5-3-2): Lumley; Kane, Manning, Hall, Leistner, Wallace; Amos (Chair 66), Ball (Mlakar 81), Eze; Hugill, Wells (Scowen 66). Subs (not used): Barnes, Smith, Pugh, Bright-Samuel.

GOAL: Hugill (3).

REFEREE: James Linington (Newport).

ATTENDANCE: 18,320.

#COYW

Kamara to make Fulham first-team return

Fulham are planning to use Aboubakar Kamara in their first-team squad this season despite his previous disciplinary issues, according to a Daily Telegraph report this morning.

The French forward was shipped out to Turkey on loan in January after falling out with previous head coach Claudio Ranieri having insisted on taking a penalty ahead of designated taker Aleksandar Mitrovic. Kamara then got involved in an altercation with Mitrovic during a training ground yoga session and was arrested after an alleged assault on a club member of staff in a subsequent incident.

Kamara, whose cause has been championed by the club’s director of football and vice chairman Tony Khan, had been invited back to train with club’s first team on their return to training for the summer. The forward’s future was the subject of discussions between Scott Parker and senior first-team players and he has been allowed to return to the senior set-up as a result.

Fulham are light on striking alternatives to Mitrovic, who signed an extended contract with the club last week. Kamara could also be utilised as a right winger, where he was effective towards the end of Fulham’s promotion campaign under Slavisa Jokanovic, with the Whites also without first-team depth in that position. He appeared off the bench as Fulham were beaten 3-1 by Cambridge United in their first pre-season friendly and is expected to feature when Parker’s side take on Porto next week.