Fulham are aiming to conclude permanent deals for Chelsea pair Tomas Kalas and Lucas Piazon in the coming weeks, according to West London Sport.
The Whites are ready to enter another of negotiations with their neighbours over the future of two players who have spent the last two years on loan at Craven Cottage. Fulham were eager to try and sign both players on permanent deals last summer but felt priced out of that option – opting to extend their loan arrangements instead.
Kalas, who scored on international duty for the Czech Republic against Nigeria earlier this week, has already suggested he would be willing to sign for Fulham on a permanent basis. The 25 year-old was not as integral to Fulham’s promotion challenge this year as he had been back in 2016/2017 – owing to a combination of injuries and the form of Denis Odoi as a stand-in centre back – but Slavisa Jokanovic believes he could comfortably make the step up to the top-flight.
The West London Sport article suggests that Fulham are able to sign Kalas for £8.5m under the terms of their current loan agreement, but the Whites are set to try and haggle with Chelsea over their valuation of a player, who has made just four first-team appearances in eight years at Stamford Bridge.
Fulham are also eager to try and tie up a deal for Lucas Piazon, the Brazilian forward, who has formed such a strong bond with the club’s supporters during his two years at Craven Cottage. The 24 year-old looks to have little chance of breaking into the first team at his parent club, but has played a key part in both of Fulham’s Championship campaigns despite successive seasons being disrupted by serious injuries. Over the two seasons, Piazon has scored 12 goals in 47 appearances and his versatility is known to be viewed by Jokanovic as a key asset.
Fulham could be successful in their quest to sign some of their loan rangers on a permanent basis this summer – but bringing Aleksandar Mitrovic and Tomas Kalas to Craven Cottage for good will cost the Whites around £30m, according to the Daily Mirror.
Slavisa Jokanovic is keen to conclude a deal with Newcastle for Serbian striker Mitrovic, who has fallen out of favour with Rafa Benitez at St. James’ Park. Mitrovic scored twelve times in a successful loan spell that culminated in Fulham winning promotion via the Championship play-offs and whilst the 23 year-old forward appears to be surplus to requirements in the north east, Newcastle may well wait until the end of the World Cup to see just how big a bidding war they can start for the former Anderlecht striker’s services.
Mitrovic himself hinted that he would be keen to stay with Fulham – where he has ‘played some best football of my career’ – in the aftermath of last weekend’s play-off final win over Aston Villa. The Mirror suggests that Newcastle will be looking for a fee within the region of £20m, which would shatter Fulham’s transfer record.
Centre back Tomas Kalas has made no secret of the fact that he is keen to move on from Chelsea this summer – and after two successful loan spells in SW6, Fulham could be a suitable destination for the Czech international to further his career. The 25 year old’s second season at Craven Cottage didn’t see him start as many games as his first spell under Jokanovic, with injuries and the form of Denis Odoi meaning he finished the campaign as Fulham’s third choice substitute, but the Whites are believed to be keen to strengthen their defensive options ahead of their Premier League return.
Fulham did negotiate with Chelsea over the possibility of buying Kalas last summer but were priced out of a move. The Mirror reckons that the Blues value Kalas, who has made just two league appearances in eight years at Stamford Bridge, at around £10m. Whether Fulham will balk at such an outlay remains to be seen.
Tomas Kalas is keen to make his loan at Fulham permanent after two years on loan at Craven Cottage from Chelsea.
The Czech centre back, who came on for the final ten minutes of the Whites’ Championship play-off final win against Aston Villa at Wembley on Saturday, has told Czech website isport that he is considering continuing his career elsewhere after eight years at Stamford Bridge, during which he has made just three first-team appearances.
Kalas admitted he would be attracted to staying with Fulham and helping Slavisa Jokanovic’s side establish themselves back in the top flight and revealed that he has instructed his representatives to sort out his future swiftly.
There is an agreement that Fulham must buy me or pay a loan fee. Now it’s in their hands. I would like to be somewhere else and settle down after years of waiting. If Fulham would buy me, I would be relieved.
At Fulham, until February, I played almost every game until I got injured and couldn’t get back in the team. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t go up automatically so we had to go into the play-offs but it was nicer to celebrate at Wembley. It was more valuable. It was the nicest experience I have ever had.
Fulham could be set for another summer of protracted negotiations with their near neighbours, who struck a hard bargain when the Whites wanted to extend the loan deals of Lucas Piazon and Kalas last year. Acquiring the highly rated 25 year-old centre half on a permanent basis could help bolster Jokanovic’s options in the heart of the defence, which must be on Jokanovic’s mind as prepares for the step up to the Premier League.
Not many football fans get particularly excited about a solid defence. The Italians revere a brilliant back four and catenaccio, but they might be the exceptions that prove the rule. Any manager worth their salt, though, will tell you that a side can’t be successful without solid foundations – and they often start at the back. George Graham built his famous Arsenal sides on an almost impregnable rearguard and Highbury regulars embraced their miserly nature with a host of songs to serenade their heroes.
You wouldn’t place Slavisa Jokanovic in the same category as Graham for many reasons, but a line from his post-match press conference, highlighting the fact that his side had kept three clean sheets in succession stuck in my mind. The Serbian’s Fulham side are lauded for their pretty passing and progressive football that makes the Whites one of the most watchable outfits in the country, but their promotion push last season was undermined by some rather slapdash defending. The goals of Aleksandar Mitrovic, creativity of Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon’s raw talent might grab the headlines – but Fulham’s defensive discipline might just be crucial, either in helping them overhaul Cardiff City or during those nerve-jangling play-off ties that may lie ahead.
On Saturday at Hillsborough, Fulham denied Sheffield Wednesday, who had scored seven goals in their last two outings, even a shot on target. The closest the Owls game was a rising drive from substitute Fernando Forestieri that flew wide in stoppage time. Marcus Bettinelli might not have been overly tested in south Yorkshire but he proved his worth with that pivotal save from Caleb Ekuban against Leeds in midweek, which might prove crucial come the end of the season. Bettinelli also produced an excellent stop to deny Denis Srbeny at Carrow Road just after half-time before Fulham scored twice on Good Friday – and there’s no doubting that the Whites defence has looked much meaner since he replaced David Button in goal.
I’ve written about Tim Ream’s remarkable renaissance before, but the American’s journey from fifth choice centre half to the rock around which Jokanovic’s back four is built is still worth reflecting on. He told the Times the other week that there was now almost a magnetic understanding between Fulham’s players – something which Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes seemed to enjoy at their peak – and the former Bolton defender radiates real confidence through the rest of the side. Where Fulham fans fretted about a lack of defensive cover at the end of January, Jokanovic has a choice of partners for Ream.
The fact that Tomas Kalas, who was outstanding for much of his first season on loan at Craven Cottage, isn’t an automatic pick at the heart of the defence is largely down to the splendid performances that Denis Odoi – who is not even a natural centre half – has delivered of late. We got a sense of just how well the Belgian could do as an understudy in the middle at Reading and Leeds at the start of the season, but the way that Odoi has shaken off that costly error against QPR with a succession of composed displays has been particularly impressive. He nullified Adthe Nuhiu with a modicum of fuss at the weekend, which is no mean feat considering the Kosovo striker stands at 6ft 4in. As a result, a fully fit Kalas is awaiting an opportunity from the bench – whilst Marcelo Djalo kicks his heels.
Fulham’s full backs get a lot of praise for their adventure, but both are an important part of a disciplined back four. Ryan Fredericks has improved the defensive side of his game no end – and he bailed Fulham out bravely with an incredible recovery run and tackle to stop a dangerous Wednesday break in its tracks on Saturday – whilst Matt Targett is a far more assured defender than people give him credit for. All four of these players read the game exceptionally well and are confident on the ball, which makes Kevin McDonald’s critical job as the shield in front of the defence so much easier.
It is right that McDonald gets a few plaudits for Fulham’s improved defensive performances. His positioning and disciplines gives Jokanovic’s full backs and wide players, as well as Cairney and Johansen in front of him, the license to worry the opposition in far more advanced positions, especially away from home. Looking back on his performances over the past two seasons, it is easy to see why Fulham were so keen to sign him at various points prior to his arrival at Craven Cottage – and his ability to distribute the ball accurately from deep-lying positions is also a huge bonus in transition for a side that likes to break so quickly.
Jokanovic’s footballing philosophy is based on retaining possession and hurting the opposition high up the pitch. The Serbian knows Fulham’s season is far from finished but those three clean sheets – coming at a time when any slip-up would have probably ended their outside chance of a shot at second place – would have certainly given him a reason to smile.
Tomas Kalas believes Fulham belong in the Championship’s top six and has urged the Whites to use their accumulation of seven points in seven days as a springboard to start the sort of run that carried them into the upper echelons of the table last season.
The Czech central half told FulhamFCTV that he was pleased to keep a clean sheet against Millwall yesterday, but he wants that to become the norm over the coming weeks as Slavisa Jokanovic’s side bid to climb the table. Kalas feels Fulham’s impressive recent form has been a long time in coming and wants to carry that confidence into next weekend’s west London derby with Brentford.
We should have done it much earlier. It’s better to start now than never. It was three tough games. We’ve got seven points, it could have been nine but we’re quite happy with seven after what we’ve been through before and now we’ve just one game each weekend for three or four weeks so let’s get together, let’s work on training and keep it going like that.
When was the last time [we kept a clean sheet]? Three months ago or something like that? We can finally smile and say that we can keep clean sheets! One clean sheet doesn’t make anything, we have to aim for that. We need to stick together on the pitch and when we defend and attack as a team then we can beat the opponent just 1-0.
Kalas acknowledged that Millwall’s direct and imposing football knocked Fulham off their stride in the second half but feels his team-mates will learn an awful lot from having ground out a result against the Lions.
They are aggressive, playing long balls and it is always annoying to play against teams like that but you will find it in every league, especially the Championship or League One. So we have to deal with it and, even though, literally every one of our players was smaller than their smallest player on the pitch, we dealt with it and big credit to everyone on the pitch.
The competitive nature of the Championship means the league remains very congested approaching the festive period and Kalas is adamant that Fulham, having moved into the top half courtesy of Ollie Norwood’s penalty yesterday, belong at least in the play-off positions.
In this competition, you know that if you win two or three times in a row and you are completely in a different position in the table. We just have to try to keep it going and climb up the table. There wasn’t many teams that were better than us [last season] and we have to believe in ourselves because we lost against teams that we shouldn’t have lost [to] and we beat teams that are in front of us or in the top six. I think we belong in the top six and hopefully we will get there as soon as possible.