Kostas Mitroglou: the signing story that gets weirder over time

Charles Jones 21st October 2020

Charles Jones tells the tale of Kostas Mitroglou – a story that gets more twists and turns as the years roll on.

Jean-Michael Seri’s omission from our 25-man squad this week puts him in contention to be named Fulham’s worst signing ever. But the man bought for a reported £30m a little more than two years ago has stiff competition for that title.

Kostas Mitroglou has to be considered our worst signing of all time – and every year the legend of his time at Fulham grows.

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£12m down the drain

On Deadline day in January 2014, we were deep in the relegation mire and desperate for a new striker.

Steve Sidwell topped our goalscoring charts that year – and that tells you all you need to know about our scoring woes.

Luckily, there was a solution flying in from Greece. And his name was Kostas Mitroglou.

A club-record fee of £12m was enough to secure the Olympiacos hitman’s signature, but as the weeks went on it became very clear that we’d made a grave error.

He never managed to get fit, appearing just three times for us and failing to score in any of those appearances. We were relegated with a whimper, and rather than cashing in while the iron was (relatively) hot, we decided to loan him out, first back to Olympiacos (where he rediscovered his goal-scoring form, obviously), and then to Benfica, where he eventually signed permanently.  

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What could’ve been

We can get over a last-minute panic buy of an unfit forward not working out, but this move was made all the more bitter by the fact that one of our potential alternatives was a little-known attacker called Antoine Griezmann.

You don’t need telling what he’s gone on to achieve since then; he’s a World Cup winner, a European Championship Golden Boot winner and one of the most expensive players in history.

Whether or not Griezmann would have had enough to single-handedly save us with Felix Magath at the helm is up for debate, but he surely would have been better than Mitroglou.

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Perfectly picked out

It wasn’t hard to see why we chose to sign the man known as ‘Mitrogoal’.

He’d scored 16 goals in his first 24 appearances in the Greek Super League that season, as well as three goals in the Champions League, but five years after we signed him, it emerged that we’d done so based purely on his FIFA stats.

Former Whites captain Danny Murphy told the story back in 2017, at a data journalism talk for Opta, claiming that he had it on good authority that this was the case.

We know that Fulham’s analytics approach towards transfers is ripe for criticism at the best of times, but going off of FIFA stats is literally unheard of. Of course, we all know that Football Manager is the only way forward.

Not just hungry for goals

For all of the criticism Mitroglou gets for his time at Fulham, we can’t deny that the excitement was palpable before he was announced on that fateful deadline day.

The Greek attacker was snapped in Domino’s in London just hours before he signed for the club, and unfortunately, his pizza shop antics were just a sign of things to come.

Steve Sidwell didn’t hold back when talking about Mitroglou last year and he revealed that the striker didn’t just have an appetite for goals.

“This fucker, he did not stop eating.” Sidwell said.

“He was a big boy. And you know the protein bars, every time you’d see him, he’d be walking around the training ground with a fucking protein bar.”

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Lessons to be learned

And so ends the mythical tale of Kostas Mitroglou’s plight at Fulham (unless there are more revelations to come).

Every single year something new seems to come to light about the Greek forward’s time at the club to the point where nothing could surprise us anymore. And while he may be Fulham’s worst signing ever, there are lessons to be learned.

This shouldn’t need saying, but football clubs shouldn’t sign players solely on their stats on a video game. And if your new £12m striker is heading to Domino’s straight after getting off the plane, maybe he’s not got the right attitude to single-handedly steer you clear of a relegation battle.

Contrastingly, little is known about Seri, cast out into the cold of the under-23s this week. Even his transfer is shrouded in mystery amid reports of dodgy payments and makeweight players. But the end result, so far, has been similar; relegation and a loan lifeline. We’ll all be watching the next chapter of this tragic tale closely.