The money that Fulham spent in the transfer window has been remarked on far and wide, but we’re all aware that not all purchases made for lofty sums pay off in the long run. Cameron Ramsey looks at some of our previous transfers that caused a stir, and whether or not they lived up to expectations.
Fulham may have succumbed to a 2-0 loss in their opening fixture back in the Premier League against a resolute Crystal Palace, but many are quick to forget that seven of Slavisa Jokanovic’s starting XI were debutantes and had never played in the same partnerships before, a telling indication of just how busy the Whites were during the summer transfer window.
£105m was splashed and eleven new faces waltzed through the door at Motspur Park, a staggering financial revelation indeed as evidently Shahid Khan, alongside Tony, understood the extent to which they’ll have to invest if the south-west Londoners are to survive their first season back in the big time after their 4-year absence.
In years gone by, Fulham have had a catalogue of consummate professionals hold the famous jersey aloft in their unveiling, and though they may no longer be with us as part of the current compliment, their cult hero status will blissfully live on in our hearts and memories forever.
We all marvelled at the likes of Andre Schurrle, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Jean-Michael Seri last weekend, and though there’s certainly others left unmentioned, here’s a select roster of former stars – in no particular order – that once had us licking our lips, or ponderously stroking our chins, in anticipation upon their respective arrivals in SW6.
Steve Marlet – 2001/02 (Olympique Lyonnais)
Signing a five-year deal with Fulham, Steve Marlet joined fellow Frenchman Jean Tigana down by the river for a then club-record fee of £11.5m, a weighty sum which epitomised Mohammed Al Fayed’s personal ambition of trying to make Fulham the ‘Manchester United of the south’.
A France international striker with 5 caps and 1 goal, Marlet was undoubtedly the high-profile, marquee signing of the new millennium and his ruthless prowess in-front of the target in the Champions League prior his jump to Fulham had every single one of us chomping at the bit to witness what he could bring to the Premier League.
But, alas, Marlet’s spell at the club was not as prolific as it promised to be. In 68 appearances the temperamental attacker only managed to bag 15 goals, a shallow record when taking the lofty lump of cash that was initially parted with in order to gain his coveted signature from the Ligue 1 giants into consideration.
Louis Saha – 2000/01 (FC Metz)
Having began his career at French outfit FC Metz, Louis Saha was not alien to life on English soil as he’d already plied his trade for Newcastle United on loan; however before the start of the 2000/01 Division 1 campaign the enigmatic striker’s career was to indeed move permanently across the English Channel, with Fulham being the eventual destination.
Saha’s tally for Metz was 5 in 54 appearances although his haul for Fulham was 27 goals in 83, an assured return for his driven exploits on a weekly basis which earned him a deserved £12m switch to Manchester United midway through the 2003/04 campaign, after enduring turbulent affairs during the troublesome transfer saga, of course.
Other than United, Saha also represented Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Sunderland, but he’ll ultimately be remembered by Fulham’s followers due to his imperiously clinical nature in the 18-yard box, a presence which helped catapult the Whites towards promotion to the top-tier in his inaugural season at the club.
Andy Johnson – 2008/09 (Everton)
A composed penalty-box dispatcher, Fulham lured Andy Johnson from Everton in the summer of 2008 for a reported £12m on a 4-year contract, an addition to Roy Hodgson’s fold which gifted his set-up a new dimension on the counter attack due to the 27-year-old’s searing pace and awareness in the penalty area.
‘AJ’ netted 22 goals in 87 outings for the Toffees, although during his career at Crystal Palace the diminutive striker staggeringly bulged the net 85 times in 160 appearances, making him a true fan favourite at Selhurst Park.
Purchasing Johnson in his prime was a very intelligent decision, not to mention the fact that he was also a senior England international. A proficient scalpel that swiftly dissected rearguards, Johnson, who respected his standing deal at the Cottage, managed to tally 27 goals for the Whites with 18 assists, although due to a severe knee injury, he was subsequently a bystander during the club’s historic ‘European tour’ in the Europa League in 2010.
Papa Bouba Diop – 2004/05 (RC Lens)
The world was first introduced to the majesty of Papa Bouba Diop at the 2002 World Cup after the bamboozling enforcer slammed Senegal’s winner against France in the opening fixture of the tournament, and in the summer of 2004, Fulham’s faithful were treated with the delight of his signature, which formerly belonged to RC Lens.
Penning a 4-year agreement, Diop would make the midfield his domain in a Fulham shirt whilst heavily endearing himself to everyone affiliated with his employers. Dubbed ‘The Wardrobe’, the towering anchorman held no prisoners in his department and sporadically contributed to his squad’s welfare with the odd screamer. Chelsea and Manchester United spring to mind, no?
Whilst revelling in a Fulham shirt for 3 years, ‘Papa’ clocked 82 appearances for the club in all competitions, and though he was only on the books for a relatively limited time, the impenetrable juggernaut is without question one of the south-west Londoners’ greatest acquisitions of the first Premier League era.
Dimitar Berbatov – 2012/13 (Manchester United)
What else needs to be spelled out? Fulham, amidst an array of European heavyweights, endeavoured to land Dimitar Berbatov’s highly sought-after services from Manchester United on a 2-year deal, and knowing what the intricate Bulgarian was innately capable of, it’s safe to say that pandemonium erupted upon the very first transfer link, no matter how tenuous it appeared initially.
Having witnessed his terrifying prowess within the danger area in the flesh on many differing occasions for both United and Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham genuinely had a marksman leading the line with title-winning credentials having claimed two Premier League titles with the Red Devils, and one who’s unflappable demeanour made him the English top-flight’s most unassuming, yet deadly marksmen.
Finishing the 2010/11 campaign as joint top scorer with Carlos Tevez, ‘King Berba’ had an undoubted pedigree in front of the target and his menacing presence in United colours was echoed during his 54 games in Fulham’s – with 20 goals to his coveted name during his stretch by the Thames, the cultured offensive mastermind also captured our imaginations with his magnetic first touch and nonchalant flicks and pirouettes, even if he appeared lethargic at times, but that’s the majesty of his unrivalled genius, of course.
Damien Duff – 2009/10 (Newcastle United)
Starting the 2009/10 season at Championship side Newcastle United, Damien Duff opted to migrate south to SW6 after shaking hands on a 3-year contract with none other than the mighty Fulham, having formally sampled life as a servant to close local rivals Chelsea, where he made a nuisance of himself along the channels far and wide, sadly.
Fleet footed and incisive, Duff promptly announced himself to the club’s expectant supporters with a string of inexhaustible performances, particularly against Everton at home, where the vibrant Republic of Ireland international swept home his first goal for his new employers and the tie’s winner, making it 2-1 to the Cottagers with just over 10 minutes of normal time to go.
Duff’s invaluable experience in Europe aided Fulham’s progression in the Europa League throughout the group and knock-out stages, and as he was comfortable on either flank, the Whites flourished into a formidably unpredictable force on the continent, a spirited edge which enabled them to slay Shakhtar Donetsk, VfL Wolfsburg and Juventus, amongst other perilled superpowers that haplessly failed to floor Hodgson’s heroes.
Mousa Dembele – 2010/11 (AZ Alkmaar)
YouTube, for a broad, curious segment of Fulham’s faithful, was duly consulted when the Whites snagged Mousa Dembele from Eredivisie outfit AZ Alkmaar in 2010, but it wasn’t long until the Premier League was made accustom to the Belgian powerhouse’s deceptively sophisticated skill set.
For such a, well, unit of a central midfielder, Dembele showcased his exquisite footwork on a weekly basis, weaving his way through waves of oncoming opponents like a finely-tuned Hummer with the turning circle of a spinning bar stool that’s been generously doused in WD40.
Fulham religiously utilised the intimidating playmaker’s dexterity, an impending Trojan horse, with virtually every siege passing through his administration. And who can forget his marauding slalom against Spurs in the FA Cup in 2011? A dazzling individual mission, accompanied by a pinpoint missile on the edge of the box, that rounded off the Whites’ scintillating 4-0 victory over the north-Londoners, with all goals remarkably coming within the opening 45 minutes.
John Arne Riise – 2011/12 (AS Roma)
A robust left-back by trade, Fulham secured Norwegian international John Arne Riise from Serie A side AS Roma in the summer of 2011, but any respectable football fan would recognise the fiery ex-Liverpool full-back as a devastatingly effective squad member in all departments, be it defensively or in a more advanced never region with the keeper at his mercy.
Kerosene and nitrogen powered his destructive left foot and if the hardened Nordic warrior caught the ball on that all important sweet spot, it stayed hit, and if you were trapped in the projectile’s path, then you could wave goodbye to your family, friends and facial features, that’s for sure. Although in his 105 encounters for the Whites, preposterously, we never saw the net ripped from its moorings, not once. He did offer 11 assists, though, however that’s mildly underwhelming, really.
But that was the infectious buzz around his arrival, ultimately. We had a tenacious disciplinarian in our ranks who was an integral cog in the Reds’ sensational 2005 Champions League-winning set-up, and whilst he was an invaluable national team leader, Riise’s commanding ethic unreservedly reinforced Martin Jol’s defensive quarters.