Fulham manager Martin Jol has admitted there is no chance of the club signing AC Milan midfielder Urby Emanuelson on a permanent basis.
The 26-year-old has been on loan with the Premier League club at Craven Cottage since January.
He has made nine appearances for Jol’s side, with his best display coming in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by Arsenal.
“You could see [on Saturday] that Urby is a nice, technical crowd-pleaser,” said Jol. “But there is not an option on him, because it would be impossible to buy him.”
We got only the briefest of glimpses of Urby Emanuelson at the weekend. Havig gone through an extensive warm-up along the Riverside touchline, he was introduced as a late substitute for the tiring Damien Duff as Fulham strove to hang onto their slender lead against Stoke City. The Craven Cottage faithful saw Emanuelson in his natural left midfield role, as opposed to the central midfield position he had filled during his two previous cameos in a white shirt.
The Dutch midfielder was probably the biggest name to make a loan move to Fulham over the January transfer window as Martin Jol bolstered his midfield with a few temporary additions. Emanuelson has been adamant that he’ll return to parent club AC Milan come the summer – and he reiterates that position in a revealing interview with InsideFutbol. It’s clear he still feels he has unfinished business at the San Siro, having suffered through a tricky third season – spent mostly on the bench – at Milan and also wants to force his way back into the Dutch national side. What better way to remind everyone of his enduring ability than with a successful spell in the Premier League?
Even in his three substitute appearances, Emanuelson has quickly acclimatised to the major difference between the more cerebral Serie A and English football:
The main difference between this league and Serie A is the speed of play. Football in England is faster. Moreover, the referees are more tolerant, while sometimes in Italy it is frustrating to see the game stopped every minute because of a foul.
The Dutchman is also candid enough to admit that his move to London has made having to adjust to the fact that he’s dealing with a different kind of challenge for the first time in his career.
It is the first time in my career that I am at a club that does not play dominant football. Both Ajax and Milan were powerhouses in their countries, whilst Fulham have to face giants like Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. Against them you can try to play football, but you can’t dictate the game. I don’t see Fulham as a step back in my career. I am 26. I need to play. Fulham? It was a choice I made for my career.
Emanuelson’s history with Martin Jol might the only reason he’s ended up at the Cottage. Facing up to the reality of a fractured relationship with current AC Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri, he jumped at the chance of being reunited with a coach who helped him burst onto the European scene during his time at Ajax. The move might just prove mutually beneficial.
He was key to my move to London as I’d already worked with him before at Ajax. Under him I had one of my best seasons. He knows me and I needed a coach who believes 100% in my qualities. Tactically speaking, Jol has asked me to bring more creativity to the team, but at the same time I must take care of my defensive duties and keep the team compact. That’s fine by me, I am an all-round player and I have considered my versatility to be one of my strongest points. Playing a key role both in the defensive and attacking phase is the same thing I did at Milan. The only difference is, as I said before, that in England I have less time to close the space to my opponent or to put a team-mate through on goal.
Emanuelson’s cameos from the bench have whetted the appetite of Fulham fans eager to see what sort of impression he might make on the Premier League were he given a prolonged run of games in the side. The competition for places in the wide positions is fierce, with Damien Duff’s determination making him the first choice on the left and Ashkan Dejagah’s display on Saturday suggesting that the Iranian winger is right to make the right-sided spot his own. The most intriguing possibility is whether Jol could successfully deploy Emmanuelson as a deep-lying playmaker, like Mousa Dembele.
In that regard, Saturday’s three points – which inched Fulham closer to safety – could be crucial. Jol might be tempted to release the shackles over the closing weeks of the season, allowing his side, which suddenly has a collection of flair players, to play a more expansive game that would suit the talents of Emanuelson, Ruiz and Berbatov. If the Dutchman is keen to remind Milan of his ability, Fulham might be in line for an exciting end to their campaign.
It was the participation of Fulham fan and TOOFIF columnist Dave Kidd that made me a regular viewer of the Life’s a Pitch podcast run by BT. You tend to get sharper punditry here than in the back pages as the coverage isn’t as driven towards the top four or five and covers a broader range of topics. So it proved this week as the panelists debated some of the less high-profile signings towards the tail end of the January transfer window.
The Times’ Rory Smith was positively purring about one of Fulham’s new recruits, the on-loan midfielder Urby Emanuelson:
Emanuelson is a belting player. When he’s on form and fit he’s a top-four player, so Fulham have done really well to get him. He can play centre-midfield, left-back or wide left, and he’s been at Ajax and AC Milan, so you can’t get a better education than that. He knows Martin Jol so he’ll be comfortable, and he’s the sort of player Fulham fans will really enjoying watching. A hit.
It’s not exactly a secret that the Jol connection was what secured Emanuelson’s passage to Craven Cottage. He had worked with the Fulham manager at Ajax and, enduring a spell out of the Milan side at the moment, was eager to do so again. There’s no doubting Emmanuelson’s quality and it’s a bonus that he can feature in a number of different positions. He’s probably classier than a continental Chris Baird, but the versatility Emanuelson offers is similar. Comfortable on the left wing or at left back, we’ve seen him so far deployed in central midfield – and he’s caught the eye even in just an hour’s playing time.
Jol has compared his new arrival to Moussa Dembele and it’s easy to see why. He’s got impeccable balance and a deceptive turn of pace but perhaps most impressive he’s increased the intensity of Fulham’s performance both times he’s stepped off the bench. That might not have been difficult during a dire game at Norwich, but the way he was quickly carrying the attack to Manchester United the other week was encouraging. Whilst he was still picking up match fitness and integrating into his new surroundings, it made sense to use him from the bench, but the task for Jol is to find a place for Emanuelson in his side.
Central midfield seems the most likely place for the Dutch international to slot into – although he’ll need to be prepared for Stoke’s physical approach if he starts there in Fulham’s next fixture. It’s probably the best fit for the system Jol’s looking to play to – with Emanuelson able to carry the ball forward from deeper positions, quicken the transition from defence to attack and pick a penetrating pace, that would allow both Bryan Ruiz and Dimitar Berbatov to spend more time in the advanced areas where they are most likely to hurt the opposition. Like Smith, I’m certainly looking forward to seeing more of Urby in a Fulham shirt.
Urby Emmanuelson was delighted to make his Fulham debut in the narrow defeat by Manchester United on Saturday – and the midfielder felt the Whites were unlucky not to get a point after their spirited showing.
The Dutch international, who only trained with his new team-mates for the first time on Friday, was impressed with Fulham’s all-round display and added a swifter tempo when he replaced Giorgos Karagounis midway through the second half.
It wasn’t an easy game to make my debut in. It was a tough match, but in the second half we really fought well and it looked like we would get at least a point.
We fought as a team. You saw in the second half that we were getting stronger and stronger. We were unlucky in the box as well. But with the strikers they have, they can always score goals. We can be happy with the way we played, of course, but the result was not what we wanted.
Emmanuelson says he’s happy to play anywhere across the midfield and feels comfortable in the centre, where he slotted in alongside Chris Baird, despite making most of his appearances for AC Milan on the left.
I’m comfortable playing there. I’m used to playing in a lot of positions and with my style of play I can play anywhere in the midfield. It’s started for me now and I want to grow as a player and help the team. The result wasn’t to be but I’m really happy that I got some minutes on the pitch and it went well.
It’s a good feeling to make my debut. I just want to play more than I was in Milan. I’d only trained once with Fulham before the game so I’m happy that I could play 25 minutes.
He also confirmed that his decision to join Fulham had a lot to do with Martin Jol, who had been his boss during his time at Ajax.
Martin Jol was a big part of the move as I’d worked already with him. I need a little bit of trust at the moment and he’s a coach who believes in me. That is one of the big reasons why I came here. It feels like a great group of players here. Everybody is making jokes and I’ve been made to feel very welcome. I’m really happy that I’m here and I’m looking forward to showing the fans what I can do on the pitch.
Late in the day Fulham have completed the loan signing of Eyong Enoh from Ajax. The 26 year old is the second player of the day to reunite with Martin Jol following the addition of Urby Emanuelson, and having been known for being a tough tackling midfield enforcer adds further to the Fulham squad. The loan has a possibility of a permanent transfer and a two year contract, should his initial five month stay be a success.