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Evian eyeing Boateng

Evian TG have reportedly set their sights on signing Derek Boateng from Fulham.

The 30-year-old midfielder has found chances to impress tough to come by at Craven Cottage, having appeared just five times in all competitions for the London outfit so far this season.

Boateng is supposedly eager to gain some more playing time this term, ahead of Ghana’s World Cup campaign in Brazil later this year.

French newspaper L’Equipe claims that Evian are ready to try their hand at luring Boateng to France on a loan deal until the end of the season.

Boateng joined Fulham last May on a free from Ukrainian side Dnipro.

Boateng in Watford talks

Fulham have given Derek Boateng permission to speak to Watford ahead of a potential loan deal until the end of the season.

The midfielder has made just four starts since his summer switch from Dnipro, and featured once since Rene Meulensteen took charge last month – in last weekend’s FA Cup draw with Norwich.

Boateng wants to quit Craven Cottage to get regular first-team football in order to cement a place in Ghana’s squad for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.

And boss Meulensteen has sanctioned a deal for the African to join the Championship club for the rest of the campaign.

He said: “Derek has a chance to go to the World Cup, so we’ve allowed him to speak to Watford.”

Boateng buzzing after Stoke win

Fulham midfielder Derek Boateng was pleased to play a valuable role in Fulham’s narrow victory over Stoke City.

The Ghanaian international entered the action on the hour mark as a replacement for Giorgos Karagounis and was a dominant force in the middle third of the pitch, helping nullify the visitors’ attacking threat before watching Darren Bent grab the game’s only goal.

“He’s a really good finisher,” Derek said of his match winning teammate. “He’s done a great job since he came in and everyone is really happy with him. Hopefully he can continue to score important goals like that.

“It was a very, very important victory for us. Before the game we knew that it was going to be hard but we’ve been training well so it was very good for us that we were able to get the win and three points in the end – that’s the most important thing.

“It was quite a nervy game but we managed to score a fantastic goal that proved enough to win it for us and, like I said, it was a really important one for us.

“We really, really wanted it on Saturday – we knew what position we occupied in the table so we put everything we had into winning the game. We worked so hard and I give thanks to God that we won the game in the end.

“It was very, very important to go into the international break with three points because when we come back we’ll still have that confidence which we can take into the game against Crystal Palace.”

The victory over the Potters was only Boateng’s second competitive appearance in Fulham colours – his first at Craven Cottage – and he admitted his delight at being given a run out in front of the home supporters.

“I’m very happy to have played in front of the Fulham fans,” he said. “They are good fans, they are always supporting the team and that is so important. So I’m very, very happy to be a part of it and to help us get the win.

“We have a lot of players and everyone is fighting for their position and everyone is looking forward to playing. I’m very patient and I know that my time will come and when I get the chance I have to take it. I’ve been working really, really hard for it and I was very happy to come on and help the team to win.

“I’m pleased with my performance but the most important thing was to get the three points – that was good for us and we deserved it for the hard work that we put in. Now we’ve got seven points and we are looking forward to the next game.”

Strategic Improvements

To spend or not to spend?

Ah the eternal question facing the football fan in the summer. To be pleased with what your side has done, or to always focus on what they are yet to do.

This is the dilemma facing not just Fulham fans at the moment, but probably those inside the club as well. With a around 3 weeks remaining until another fraught summer transfer window comes to a close, it is the question that will be on all our minds for some while yet.

The dilemma permeating my Fulham obsessed brain is that while the business done so far is actually very good, it is all a little underwhelming. Adel Taarabt is a signing I championed here over a month ago, but as a loan signing with no clarity on whether there’s a purchase option, he is frankly not the marquee name a billionaire takeover should merit.

It was actually Martin Jol’s post match comments following the 1-2 defeat to Parma on Saturday that really hit a nerve. He said that should we sign no more players we would have a season exactly like the last one. Well, firstly I’d argue that is not true, as the sea of teams around us has improved markedly over the summer, and secondly, Martin’s memory must be hazy as last season was all a little too close to call relegation-wise for all of our collective hearts.

I hate to be reactionary voice in our collective quagmire of nervousness, but in these long summer months, a day without a whisper or a rumour feels like a week, and the two months between Maarten Stekelenburg’s signing and Taarabt’s unveiling felt like the Hundred Years War.

With the season mere days away, there is at least, some solace in the inactivity of other teams to counter act the schizophrenic commotion of others. Indeed, were I a Newcastle fan I would be rightfully using these pages to launch a diatribe against the ineffective and dawdling ponderousness of Joe Kinnear, whereas the casual Sunderland fan might indeed be worrying about how Paolo Di Canio will get his cavalcade of mercenaries [10 new signings and counting] to play as a team.

For a team like Fulham, the summer transfer window needs to be about strategic improvement, not wholesale changes. There is however, a balance that must be struck. Queens Park Rangers were relegated last season after signing too many of the wrong players, while Reading were relegated after signing too few of the right ones.

Following the departure of Mark Schwarzer, Fulham have signed world cup finalist Stekelenburg. This should be an upgrade with Schwarzer’s performances slowly declining, but Maarten was largely benched at Roma last season and may take a while to really show his class so the question marks will linger a little longer.

Adel Taarabt is largely a replacement for Urby Emmanuelson who spent the latter portion of last season on loan from AC Milan and only began to really show his talent towards the end of his spell in White. Derek Boateng is a replacement for Eyong Enoh, another successful loanee, whilst also absorbing some of Mahammadou Diarra’s workload. Whilst the capture of Fernando Amorebieta is impressive, the only out and out strategic upgrade, there are still both holes in the squad to fill and major pinpointed strategic upgrades necessary.

With Mladen Petric yet to be replaced and no sign of Marcello Trotta being promoted, there is a gaping hole in the strikeforce. No matter how many games Hugo Rodallega is given, there will still be a gaping hole up front until a striker of genuine quality is signed or a youngster is given a chance. When you also consider that Chris Baird and Simon Davies have left, and Stanislav Manolev has not been signed following his loan, there are still other openings in our squad to be filled, and that’s without that all important central midfield playmaker we all know is missing.

By my reckoning then, that leaves two full backs (a reserve right back and potential starter at left back), a central midfielder and a centre forward still to come in. The central midfielder and the striker both need to be of a calibre good enough to force their way into the starting line-up, as without them this summer cannot be classified as a significant period of wholesale upgrade.

All this aside, and I still have both faith and hope. Still Believe we sang. Still Believe I do.

Where Fulham are concerned, transfers are done behind closed doors. Were it not for a leak onto a QPR messageboard, there is a chance none of us would have got a sniff of the Taarabt deal until he was seen holding up the Fulham shirt. Indeed, in his interview with Sarah Brookes following his arrival, he stated that negotiations took around 3 weeks. That means for all we know, Fulham most likely have engaged their major targets already, and the future is looking brighter, even IF we just can’t see it yet. [Since I wrote this news of a possible new signing this week has broken]

There is also a larger point to be made. Shahid Khan has arrived as new owner with the well-rehearsed mantra of sustainability the central tenet of his message to supporters and journalists alike. Well, for a club like Fulham, a significant method for self-sustainability is the development of young players into saleable assets. The Udinese model of ‘develop-and-flog’ is perhaps a drastic example, but the process of scouting, signing and playing young talent can make a club a lot of money and excite the fans in one fell swoop. Constantly signing players whose value cannot possibly rise over the course of their Fulham career, or those whose value can rise, but for another parent club to benefit, shows a level of short termism that is tantamount to hypocrisy from a club preaching sustainability.

Winston Churchill said that “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results”. The results of last season indicated that there was no strategy. Now is the time for Fulham to make that statement, to execute their strategy and to put in place the on-field structure that the growth and performance off it dictates. Sustainable growth though may just require some speculation.

Onto the Stadium of Light.

COYW

Fulham and the early bird

We’ve only been mourning the end of the season for three full days now and yet, Fulham have already signed up three players for next season. Joining Sascha Riether’s more permanent new contract last week, we have Derek Boateng who, after two years of trying to get him, signs on a free transfer after his release from Dnipro in January, and Fernando Amorebieta, who we’ve nicked from Athletic Bilbao on a bosman. In fact, Boateng apparently signed his deal two weeks ago according to his management agency and Amorebieta has been mooted in the media for the past month or so. A swift bit of business.

Getting in our players ASAP is, quite clearly, the most beneficial way to go about it. I suppose that there is a chance that if we act in haste we will miss out on a better deal that may arise later, but realistically Jol will have a list of targets which he will present to the board and any other business is just opportunity, rather than more careful consideration. Consider Boateng for example. After he was a standout performer in the Dnipro team we beat 3-2 on aggregate in 2011 Jol set out to get him, and while it may have taken four transfer windows, the single-mindedness of the Dutchman eventually meant he got his man. Let’s just hope the 20 months in between haven’t diminished Boateng’s quality, because he looked rather good. A souped up Etuhu the likes of which we have genuinely missed this season (until Enoh, perhaps) and even at 30 will have something to offer our squad. Signing these players so quickly means there is little time for opportunities to come in and snatch our deals as we’ve suffered too many times in the past, like Torosidis, the captain of Greece, who was all set to join us in January until Roma came and nabbed him from under our noses.

Amorebieta is especially interesting. A good defender, very talented and highly coveted, especially after his impressive form during Athletic Bilbao’s run to the Europa League final last year. He found himself out of favour from January onwards after refusing to sign a new contract which expires in less than six weeks. He has been linked to the big guns; teams like Zenit and Arsenal were reported to be interested in him. But, despite being offered a lower wage if certain media is to be believed, he has joined Fulham, and I am certain the swift actions taken to try and secure him were key to that. If we had waited any longer I imagine someone else would have one-upped us, and who knows how long this deal has been in place – Amorebieta has been available on a bosman for near five months now. As a centre half of considerable quality I cannot wait to see him alongside Hangeland next season. Aggressive but technically sound, he will shine in England and is a real coup that bodes well if this is a symbol of our pulling power and our ambition.

Riether we are all familiar with as the best kept secret in England. A transfer of between £1m and £2m is exceptional value for money, and with Sky Italia reporting Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenberg has been dropped entirely from the Roma squad ahead of an imminent €5m move to Fulham, we seem to be the early birds in this transfer window. It seems like this is how Jol prefers to do things (remember how early we signed Petric and Rodallega?) and even before then, Mark Schwarzer’s acquisition was announced five years ago yesterday. Maybe we have learnt lessons from the shambles of last summer, where all the relevant business happened after August the 28th, leaving no time to respond adequately. The club and manager deserve great credit for moving so quickly to secure their targets. Will this also calm the borderline frenzied concerns that we are poorly run with no intent to improve? One’d hope so.

Just a shame that a Summer with no football will be made even more boring if we haven’t got any transfers to look forward to since they were signed by the end of May!