When Southampton sold a 17 year old Gareth Bale to Tottenham back in 2007, they received a fee of £5m up front with a further £5m in potential add-ons. Tottenham ended up settling the add-ons at only £2m due to Southampton’s cash crisis in 2008. At the time of his transfer, Bale had made 45 first team appearances scoring 5 goals, was a full international and was the reigning Football League Young Player of the Year.
On Sunday, Fulham sold 18 year old Patrick Roberts to Manchester City for a reported £5m up front with a further £6m in add-ons and a reported 20% sell on clause. Roberts’ entire Fulham career amounted to 22 appearances, of which only 3 were starts, and no goals.
Of course it is flippant to simply compare Bale’s transfer with Roberts’, not least with 8 years between them meaning the transfer market is a different place. Yet, on the face of it, this was a pretty good piece of business from Fulham, given the entirety of Roberts’ value is in his potential.
When you take into account that Roberts’ had only one year remaining on his contract and had handed in a transfer request, the transfer begins to look like quite the bounty under the circumstances.
Ignoring the financial and logical aspects of the transfer for a moment, I am sad Roberts has gone. Like when Dimitar Berbatov or Mousa Dembele left, there is always going to be a disappointment when an entertainer leaves. The sadness of Roberts leaving is compounded as the player was genuinely home grown, having been at the club since he was 13.
Clubs like Fulham don’t often produce players with Roberts’ potential for excitement and if they do they are normally snapped up before they make the first team. For example, Roberts’ new team mate Raheem Sterling left QPR before kicking a ball at first team level.
However, truth be told, Roberts was never likely to develop into the player many of us think he can become at Fulham. Look at the best creative and attacking players in the world, how many of them became great at a non-elite club? Or at least not at a top club in any particular country? Messi has been at Barcelona since he was a boy. Ronaldo learnt his trade at Sporting Lisbon before joining Manchester United. There are countless others.
Attacking football and footballers need talent around them and space to operate in. It is a lot easier to make mistakes and get away with them when your 10 teammates are still good enough to get results. Clubs like Fulham don’t have that luxury, hence Roberts’ lack of substantial minutes last season.
He may be some way from featuring regularly for Manchester City’s first team, but in an environment where he is surrounded by world class attacking players on a daily basis, Patrick will be given every opportunity to learn and develop. At Fulham, he was already one of the most dangerous attacking players. Had he stayed this year, every appearance would have been met with increasing expectations to deliver.
There is, of course, a fear that the move to City is for the wrong reasons [money], and that he is only there to make up the homegrown quota as required for UEFA’s competitions.
The transfer is a catch 22 situation. Whilst game time at Fulham would have brought its challenges, it would at least be game time. It is not inconceivable that in four years’ time we will be reading headlines of a 22-year old Roberts moving to Sunderland, Stoke or Aston Villa having failed to make an impression on the star-ridden first team at Eastlands.
However, Roberts was not guaranteed game time even if he stayed. As alluded to earlier, Fulham do not have the luxury of being able to carry players simply to aid their development. In the marathon Championship season every point and every game count. Players need to perform or they won’t play. This mantra, like it or not, was why Kit Symons chose to leave Patrick on the bench more often than not last season.
It is easy to get emotional over the transfer of a home grown player of Roberts’ talent. He was so exciting when he did get the odd 5 minutes, that it was easy to want more. The few minutes when Roberts, Christensen, Woodrow and McCormack were on the field together were some of the most exciting we saw all season.
Indeed I was told about halfway through last season that Roberts himself was growing frustrated and wanted more game time. That this was followed by an allusion that he would look to leave if it wasn’t forthcoming was no real surprise.
Whilst I do subscribe to the theory that he was under-used and thus his exit was somewhat expedited, I find it hard to really blame anyone. Had he played more, there is no guarantee he wouldn’t have been sold, and the impact of more minutes on his price could have gone either way.
Our league position was so precarious last season that playing someone of Roberts’ inexperience and stature would have constituted a risk that perhaps wasn’t worth taking. On the rare occasion that he did start, his impact was marginal.
Given that we survived and have now received a transfer windfall regardless, the whole situation is hard to criticise. It is merely disappointing that we didn’t get to see more of Patrick before he left, even if they could only have been cameo appearances.
In the academy system Fulham are attempting to develop, there will probably need to be a significant sale every summer. Funds can then be appropriated to the academy to enable the ongoing development of players and also be used to strengthen the first team with battle ready players from elsewhere.
What happens next will be crucial for the likes of Emerson Hyndman, Moussa Dembele and Lasse Vigen Christensen. If the money received enables greater resolve to be applied to the stance on these players should suitors come calling then Roberts’ departure may have served the greater good. After all, no one prospect is greater than the club.
Should we return to the Premier League, then there is also a greater prospect we can retain our best young players.
For now, I wish Roberts well in his next chapter. We can all look on proudly as he develops, my hope being that Manchester City allow him to do so. It’d be nice to see that sell on clause grow too.
P.s Fulham today released a fascinating video interview with Mike Rigg explaining youth development and by inference the Roberts transfer. It’s must watch stuff and can be viewed here
It looks as though teenage wonder kid Patrick Roberts is heading to Manchester City in a deal that could rise to £11million. Kit Symons was asked about the speculation that has appeared on Twitter today showing Roberts in Manchester, reportedly for a medical, after today pre-season match with Crawley Town.
“It’s very difficult,” stated Symons. “He’s handed in a transfer request now and he’s only got one year left on his contract. We want to keep all our best players and build for the future but there comes a point where that becomes very difficult and you have to do what’s right for the football club. It’s progressing it’s fair to say. He’s in serious talks so we’ll have to wait and see.
“It’s a shame to lose one of our bright young talents but I need to have people that are committed and want to play for the football club.
“I sat down with Pat and his parents and told them how much we value him and want him at the Club. But they’d made their minds up and it then becomes quite difficult. We did all we could to keep him but good luck to him if this is what’s going to happen. We’ll move on, this is a big Club with a lot of good players here.”
It does seem as though the club have done everything they can to keep Roberts but if an 18 year-old has decided to hand in a transfer request to push through a move then there isn’t a massive amount anyone can do about it. Manchester City will be an attractive prospect for him but I would be surprised if we saw anything of him for a number of years. Other home grown talent such as Scott Sinclair have moved to City to take the next step in their careers and it hasn’t quite been the dream that they thought it would be. It is a shame, but the Fulham Youth Academy exists to nurture talent that can go on to either represent the club or be sold on for a profit. Kit is right when we mentioned needed players who are committed and no matter how good Roberts can be, if he isn’t committed to the club then it is unfortunately better to let him leave.
I wish him well. Hopefully in a number of years he can be brightening up the Premier League but it is such a shame that Fulham fans won’t get to see him play a part in this seasons Championship campaign.
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Various newspapers have reported throughout the course of the day that Liverpool have joined a clutch of clubs keen on signing Fulham’s teenage forward Patrick Roberts.
This morning’s Sun newspaper splashed that the Merseyside club were ready to move for Roberts after the completion of Raheem Sterling’s protracted transfer to Manchester City yesterday. Brendan Rodgers is reportedly ready to offer around £5m for the England youth international, although City’s previous bid – rumoured to be in the region of £8m – has been rejected by Fulham.
The west London side have been keen to hold onto the 18 year-old, who made twenty appearances for the first team last season, but Roberts has so far been unwilling to agree an extension to his current contract, which expires at the end of this coming season. Roberts is rumoured to be frustrated by his lack of game time under Kit Symons at Craven Cottage and is ready to move on, believing that the time is right to step up into elite level football having starred for Fulham’s youth team.
Roberts has been linked with Manchester City for much of the summer, but with his father being from Merseyside and an avid Liverpool fan, he might prefer a move to his boyhood team. Tonight’s Mirror transfer round-up invites speculation of a bidding war between the two clubs, which might be the best way of Fulham getting close to their valuation of £10m for the talented teenager.
Roberts did travel with Fulham’s first-team squad for their pre-season warm weather training camp in Portugal last week but did not feature in Saturday’s 3-1 friendly win over Aston Villa.
Paris Saint Germain are considering making an offer for Fulham teenager Patrick Roberts, according to a report in this morning’s Daily Mail.
The England youth international has been heavily linked with a summer transfer to Manchester City, who have reportedly tabled two offers for the midfielder over the past month. Fulham have placed a £10m price tag on the brightest prospect to come through the Motspur Park academy in many years, but Manchester City are reluctant to match the valuation given that Roberts has just a year to run on his current contract at Craven Cottage. The Championship side have offered the 18 year-old a new deal, with a rumoured £5,000 a week salary, but it is believed that Roberts feels this might be the right time to move on.
Should City fail to agree a deal with Fulham, the French champions could swoop in and secure Roberts’ signature at the end of his contract for as little as £300,000. Overseas clubs are only obliged to pay a nominal fee for youth players out of contract at their parent clubs, whereas the final fee for a domestic transfer would be set by an FA tribunal.
Roberts, who has been at Fulham since the age of 13, has been watched by scouts from all over Europe as he progressed through the Fulham youth team set-up. He was one of the key performers as Fulham reached the FA Youth Cup final in 2014 but did not figure as prominently as predicted during the club’s difficult first season back in the Championship, making just 20 appearances with most of them coming as a substitute. He has been a regular in the England youth sides, starring as the Under 17 team won the European Championships.
Many sources recently have claimed that both Manchester United and Manchester City have been sniffing around our wonder kid Patrick Roberts. Our youth academy has started to yield results from the considerable investment put in with the likes of Woodrow and Bettinelli, but Roberts is absolutely our most talked about prospect. The tricky winger has been on the England Youth scene for a while now but he hasn’t yet had a decent chance on the Fulham first team. Often the Fulham fans would complain about this but to be honest I can understand Kit Symons’ logic. At just 18 Roberts isn’t fully grown and still has a lot of maturing to do. Yes, he is exciting to watch and probably could have given the fans something to cheer about, but I think that last season was too early for him to be unleashed on to the Championship stage.
However, this season coming he needs to be given his chance. If we hold on to him in the summer then he needs to be a regular fixture in the side and then we, and the rest of the world, can see what he can really do. For his own development I think going to the likes of City, who mainly want him right now to boost their amount of home grown players, would be detrimental. Despite all the talk about him he isn’t proven yet and will need his chance to do this while avoiding having the pressure of being at a top 4 Premier League club. That sort of environment can destroy any player, never mind one so young. It has been reported that City have already had a £10million offer rejected by Fulham which is encouraging, as sometimes Fulham have let players go too easily. If I could give advice to Roberts right now I would say to be flattered by the interest but to continue his football education at Fulham and to not rush into signing with a big name where sometimes players get lost. Fulham should let him play this year and, if he continues to show a massive amount of potential, the big clubs will keep on looking at him. They aren’t going to lose interest and next year, or a few years down the line, he will get to make his move.
For now, let’s hope Roberts is still in a Fulham shirt come the start of the season and that he gets the chance to brighten up our performances come August.
Follow me- @Lyds_Campbell