In his debut piece, George Rossiter wades through years worth of signings to separate the wheat from the chaff.
With another relegation confirmed, it’s been widely reported that another summer squad rebuild is on the horizon at the Cottage. With no certainties of any of this season’s seven loanees staying on board and a number of players potentially not happy to play at Championship level, it’s no surprise to see the Fulham faithful left frustrated at a lack of sustainability and long-term plan.
But this is nothing new to us. Since Tony Khan first got involved in our transfer strategy in the summer of 2016, Fulham have bought in no fewer than 61 signings to the football club. Some have been better than others, and that’s what we’re going to look at. I’m going to rank all of them in order of how good of a signing they’ve been for Fulham.
All stats are correct as of 24 May 2021. All transfer fees come from Transfermarkt.
Goalkeeper. £5.4m from Besiktas, 2 appearances.
Now granted, Fabri is far from the worst player to come to the club in the last five years, and I have no doubt he’s a very decent keeper, but it just hasn’t worked, and for a reported £2.7m a game, he’s below any free signing or loanee for me.
60. Jordan Archer
Goalkeeper. Free transfer from Oxford United, 0 appearances.
This one’s tricky. How do you judge the only player on this list who’s never actually played for the club? At least he’s got some minutes this season for Middlebrough, at the expense of… Marcus Bettinelli. Ah.
59. Lazar Markovic
Winger. Free transfer from Liverpool, 1 appearance.
When the official Fulham Twitter account tried to excite the fanbase with a late deadline day signing in January 2019, nobody was impressed, and nothing changed there after a singular ineffective display at the London Stadium. Was he just a last-minute recommendation from our Mitro? Who knows.
58. Thanos Petsos
Holding midfielder. Loan in from Werder Bremen, 1 appearance.
Like that West Ham game when Markovic made his one and only appearance, I was at the Cottage when Petsos made his one and only bow for the Whites. My only memory is of the Greek International nearly hitting me in the face with a long-range strike. I was in the back row of the Hammersmith End. We’ll leave that one there.
57. Jordan Graham
Winger. Loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, 3 appearances.
When Jordan Graham signed I vaguely remember Wolves fans being excited at the prospect of him getting gametime and flourishing at Championship level. Based on what we saw of him in a Fulham shirt in his short cameos, that’s certainly not what we witnessed.
56. Marcelo Djalo
Centre-back. £720,000 from CD Lugo, 4 appearances.
I’m not 100% sure what boxes Djalo ticked when he was brought in. I can only imagine the names of Juventus and Real Madrid on his CV did the trick. With a potential relegation looming now he’s returned to Lugo, I’m not sure that CV looks quite so impressive.
55. Rafa Soares
Full-back. Loan from FC Porto, 3 appearances.
I think the reason Soares finds himself here on my list is because unlike some of the names previously mentioned, he’s probably quite a good player. To this day I’m baffled at his lack of minutes in the first half of our promotion season.
Attacking midfielder. £3.6m from Rayo Vallecano, 8 appearances.
Honestly, who knows how high Jozabed could’ve been on this list had his free kick at home to QPR crept under the bar. Alas, it did not, and instead he contributed all but nothing at around £450,00 a game, hence he finds himself 54th.
53. Ibrahima Cisse
Holding midfielder. £2.25m from Standard Liege, 13 appearances.
Look, who am I to judge someone who’s played for our club at the Emirates and Old Trafford. I’m laughing just writing that, but he didn’t give a bad account of himself at all. Can’t help but thinking there was a better player there than his 13 appearances in four years suggest.
52. Yohan Mollo
Winger. Free transfer from Zenit St Petersburg, 6 appearances.
I don’t think there’s much denying that Mollo was a very skillful player who could make a real difference when on his game, which was shown especially at the City Ground away to Nottingham Forest. But with just six games to his name, it’s hard to place him higher on this list.
51. Havard Nordveit
Centre-back. Loan from Hoffenheim, 7 appearances.
Again, like Mollo, I honestly saw a good, solid defender in Nordveit during his short time at the club. Admittedly, it’s hard to make your mark in the circumstances Fulham found themselves in while he played for us, but by no means a poor player.
50. Jean Michael Seri
Central midfielder. £27m from OGC Nice, 36 appearances, 1 goal.
What to say about Mika. When he came to Fulham alongside Maxime Le Marchand amid interest from the likes of Barcelona, the excitement among the fans was huge. But after a promising first half-a-dozen of games where the Ivorian showed real promise, everything since has been nothing but disappointment, sadly summed up by a lackluster display away to Brentford in the Carabao Cup earlier this season.
Striker. Loan from KV Oostende, 11 appearances, 1 goal.
Another Ivorian comes in at 49. Bar a quality finish in front of the Hammersmith End against Blackburn, not much springs to mind when I think about Cyriac.
48. Terence Kongolo
Centre-back. Loan, then £3.96m from Huddersfield Town, 4 appearances.
Any other player that had come and gone and cost the club pretty much a million pounds a game would surely have been right at the bottom of this list, but Kongolo is still here and I’m confident if the man finds fitness he’ll do well for us, whether that’s in the Championship or the Premier League.
47. Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Attacking midfielder. Loan from Chelsea, 32 appearances, 1 goal.
Of the three players loaned in from Chelsea on this list, Ruben was always going to be miles down from the others. Branded a “world-class talent” on his arrival at the club, all we’ve seen is world-class disappointment. A single goal this season is a shoddy contribution for someone who’s clearly capable of so much more.
46. Timothy Fosu-Mensah
Full-back. Loan from Manchester United, 13 appearances.
It feels quite harsh having TFM this low. Up until a bad injury sustained at Goodison Park early on in the season, the Dutch right-back showed a lot of promise. An season blighted by injury and inconsistency sadly means we didn’t see the best from a talented young defender.Embed from Getty Images
45. Luciano Vietto
Striker. Loan from Atletico Madrid, 22 appearances, 1 goal.
Another loanee from our failed Premier League campaign that showed promise early on in a front three with Mitro and a not-yet-mentioned German. So to only have one goal to his name and a lack of impact overall that season, Vietto won’t be remembered overly well for his time at the Cottage.
44. Rui Fonte
Striker. £6.18m from Braga, 29 appearances, 3 goals.
I can imagine a lot of people reading may have expected Rui slightly lower on this list. Although there’s a lot of talk online of him being one of our worst-ever signings, I don’t believe he was as bad as made out. Three goals in 29 games isn’t incredible, granted, but a hard worker up top, we certainly could have had worse in our side during the first promotion season.
43. Andre Schurrle
Winger. Loan from Borussia Dortmund (£360,000 fee), 25 appearances, 6 goals.
In terms of goal contributions, Schurrle was by no means the worst performer of the 2018/19 relegation season. But the lackluster attitude he showed at times left a sour taste in the mouths of many Fulham fans, culminating in a not-so-nice response to the German World Cup winner being bought on at Vicarage Road on the night relegation was confirmed.
42. Ragnar Sigurdsson
Centre-back. £4.23m from Krasnodar, 18 appearances, 1 goal.
If ever a player was a prime example of signing someone based off a major international tournament… Sigurdsson arrived after a great summer in 2016, including a goal in Iceland’s famous win over England. But the defender never quite lived up to his new expectations at the Cottage.
41. Michael Madl
Centre-back. £1.35m from Sturm Graz, 18 appearances.
It has to be said here that Madl played more games for the club in a loan spell the season before signing permanently, but as we’re only ranking the signings from the summer of 2016 onwards, I’m only counting the 18 games played from then onwards, which is probably why he’s slightly lower than he might’ve been on this list.
40. Alfie Mawson
Centre-back. £15.17m from Swansea City, 44 appearances.
Another player who probably has the ability to be higher on this list, Mawson has struggled with consistent game time through injuries and inconsistent form at the club. A decent defender, not bad on the ball, but certainly not living up to the hefty price tag paid for him so far.Embed from Getty Images
39. Maxime Le Marchand
Centre-back. £3.6m from OGC Nice, 48 appearances.
I’ll be honest here, I can never work Le Marchand out, there’s been times when I’ve seen a very capable player on the ball but they’re seemingly overshadowed more often than not by performances such as the 3-0 home defeat to Hull where he managed to help Tom Eaves look like a prime Jimmy Greaves.
38. Kenny Tete
Full-back. £2.88m from Lyon, 24 appearances.
It’s always going to be hard to judge a player you know has undeniable quality in a struggling side, and that’s the case with Kenny Tete. You don’t play for the Netherlands and in Champions League semi-finals from being average, but we’ve certainly not seen the attacking right back at his best… yet.
37. Anthony Knockaert
Winger. Loan then £10.53m from Brighton & Hove Albion, 46 appearances, 4 goals.
A capable player, but a very frustrating player. Although Knockaert was a relatively important player in a promotion season, after turning that loan to a fee over the £10m mark and to then loan him back out to the Championship after promotion, I can’t justify putting him higher up on this list.
36. Josh Maja
Striker. Loan from Bordeaux, 15 appearances, 3 goals.
Look, Maja hasn’t been terrible since joining in January. He may be playing slightly above his level, but he’s not been disastrous and I don’t think you can question his work rate. But there’s just not much to go off, so he finds himself near the middle of this list.
35. Ademola Lookman
Winger. loan from RB Leipzig, 34 appearances, 4 goals.
Lookman is obviously very talented. There’s been times this season when he’s looked like the only player capable of beating his man and working wonders for us, but when I reflect on his season at all I can’t help but feel let down by poor decision making and a lack of end product in the final third. Four goals for a player of his ability with the chances he’s created for himself has eventually become rather underwhelming.
34. Sergio Rico
Goalkeeper. Loan from Sevilla, 32 appearances.
Comfortably the best of the three keepers used during the 2018/19 campaign, Rico showed his capabilities on many occasions but equally had his fair share of uncomfortable mistakes; West Ham away springs to mind.Embed from Getty Images
33. Mario Lemina
Central midfielder. Loan from Southampton (£2m fee), 30 appearances, 1 goal.
If it hasn’t become evident already, we’re kind of in a stage on this list where we’re going through players who have had decent enough one season cameos in a Fulham shirt, but who were nothing exceptional. Lemina is exactly that, often an energetic, dynamic midfield operator. Equally, often goes missing in games. Wouldn’t mind keeping hold of him in the Championship next season, mind you.
32. Ola Aina
Full-back. Loan from Torino (£2.25m fee), 33 appearances, 2 goals.
I like Ola Aina, I really do. His versatility is a great aspect of his game, often performing well either as a right- or left-back, and it has to be said if you take his first few games at the club to now, he’s improved too, including a corker of a strike at home to West Brom. Another I wouldn’t mind keeping next season, if possible.
31. Sheyi Ojo
Winger. Loan from Liverpool, 24 appearances, 4 goals.
I think Ojo gets quite harshly judged from a lot of our fanbase if I’m honest. He often produced quality deliveries in the final third and contributing a few goals to a free flowing side under Slavisa Jokanovic. He’s probably only a few goal contributions away from being a few places higher on this list.
30. Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa
Central midfielder. £22.37m from Marseille, 63 appearances, 0 goals.
On his day, I genuinely believe Anguissa is potentially the best footballer I’ve seen at the football club since the Belgian Mousa Dembele. Dominant on the ball between the boxes, it feels harsh having a player of his quality this low. However, the inconsistency in performances over Zambo’s two seasons at the club, along with the high transfer fee and zero goals means I can’t quite justify having him any higher.Embed from Getty Images
29. Harry Arter
Central midfielder. Loan from Bournemouth, 29 appearances, 3 goals.
Looking back I don’t think we could’ve asked for much more from Arter. A fully committed, consistent performer when called upon in the middle of the park, fully capable of scoring an absolute screamer, as proven against Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa.
28. Antonee Robinson
Full-back. £1.89m from Wigan Athletic, 32 appearances.
Robinson probably finds himself higher on this list than the likes of Lookman and Tete because although like them he’s had an alright season, I can see there being a hell of a lot more to come with the young American and for such a low fee I can only see this being a very sensible and quality long-term signing.
27. David Button
Goalkeeper. £2.07m from Brentford, 61 appearances.
I’m fairly certain you’ll be reading this not expecting Button to be so high up. But there’s no denying that he was a reliable shot stopper for two seasons, always on hand when rotated with Marcus Bettinelli and that’s all you can ask for.
26. Michael Hector
Centre-back. £5.31m from Chelsea, 33 appearances.
If this list was based on the first 10 games for the club, Hector would be right at the top. Coming in and shining at the back in the promotion run-in, to sit here now with Hector playing barely any part in our Premier League campaign and seemingly pushed aside is quite a shame.
25. Chris Martin
Striker. Loan from Derby County (£1.62m fee), 34 appearances, 11 goals.
Beyond the controversies of Martin’s loan and the famous “We are not a train station” quote that came from it, a goal every three games was a very healthy return from a very decent loan spell. When the interchanging system up front wasn’t producing, Chris Martin came in and produced often during the 2016/17 season.
24. Ivan Cavaleiro
Winger. Loan then £10.62m from Wolverhampton Wanderers, 83 appearances, 9 goals.
Similar to Knockaert, Cavaleiro is often a frustrating player to watch. Clearly capable on the ball, Cav’s end product is not quite what we’d like as fans, but equally it’s hard to deny how hard he works for the side and during the middle of this season when the Portuguese man was playing in the striker role, we played some of our best football, it was just a shame the end result often wasn’t what it needed to be.
23. Aboubakar Kamara
Striker. £5.40m from Amiens SC, 93 appearances, 17 goals.
Abou is probably another player people may have expected to be lower on this list and granted, based on pure football ability and certain antics on and off the field, that may be justified. But for an overall contribution to both promotion campaigns, including big roles in both play-off efforts, Kamara has proven himself to be key to the side on multiple occasions.
22. Cyrus Christie
Full-back. £3.06m from Middlesbrough, 68 appearances, 2 goals.
Similarly to Kamara, on pure ability, Cyrus isn’t going to be compared to the best right-backs in the country, but for contributions to both promotions and some quality ones at that, including a corker of a goal at Loftus Road last year, Cyrus has proven himself to be a quality operator at Championship level for Fulham.Embed from Getty Images
21. Joachim Andersen
Centre-back. Loan from Lyon (£900,000 fee), 31 appearances, 1 goal.
When Joa took the armband early on in the season with regular captain Tom Cairney injured, I was worried at the integrity of the decision making a loanee skipper. However subsequent performances at the back have proven the decision to be a good one, and while Andersen will leave the club with a relegation on his CV, he’s been nothing but reliable for Fulham, commanding the back line while contributing to attacks with his ability to pick a long ball over the opposition defence.
20. Josh Onomah
Attacking midfielder. Swap deal from Tottenham Hotspur, 52 appearances, 4 goals.
After some superb performances in the second half of last year’s promotion campaign, including one of the best goals I’ve ever seen from a Fulham player away at Cardiff in the play-offs, it’s been a shame to see Josh’s lack of game time this season, whether it be due to injury or not finding his way into the side. However, I have every belief he’ll play a big part next season and into the future.
19. Alphonse Areola
Goalkeeper. Loan from Paris Saint Germain, 37 appearances.
I don’t think anyone can deny that Areola is the best keeper the Whites have had between the sticks in a long time. It seemed harsh to see Marek Rodak displaced so quickly this season, but Areola has earned his spot time and time again and been one of the best loan signings at the club in recent memory.
18. Bobby De-Cordova Reid
Striker. Loan then £8m from Bristol City, 83 appearances, 13 goals.
While Bobby’s first season with Fulham wasn’t outstanding, it wasn’t terrible by any means, and I’m certain he deserved more goals than he scored, especially in the early stages of the season. But surely nobody would believe he’d come into his own quite like he did this season whether that was through goal-scoring or his newly-shown versatility with spells on the right side of a back five. I’m sure he’ll have a huge part to play next season.
17. Tosin Adarabioyo
Centre-back. £1.49m from Manchester City, 34 appearances.
For a first full Premier League season coming into a new side, Tosin’s performances and consistency this season have been admirable. I think he finds himself higher on this list than the likes of Andersen and Areola on the basis of the future he could and hopefully will have at the club. For the talent and the price, this has been a brilliant piece of business.Embed from Getty Images
16. Ryan Babel
Winger. £1.8m from Besiktas, 16 appearances, 5 goals.
As short term stints go, Ryan Babel’s time at the Cottage was certainly one of the most memorable, especially with the perception of the deal before we’d seen him play in a Fulham shirt. Nobody could’ve imagined the quality Babel would bring to an underperforming side at the time like he did.
15. Matt Targett
Full-back. Loan from Southampton, 21 appearances, 1 goal.
The highest ranked ‘short-term deal’ on this list had to be Matt Targett. The quality he showed at left-back for Fulham in the 2017/18 promotion side was superb, and he’s continued to show that at Villa Park. Along with his quality, a big part of our success that year was the link-up down the left with Ryan Sessegnon, allowing the young star to flourish on the wing.
14. Calum Chambers
Defensive midfielder. Loan from Arsenal, 33 appearances, 2 goals.
If you’d told any Fulham fan that Chambers would shine in a midfield role after a shocker of a performance at the Cardiff City Stadium at right-back, I don’t think they’d have believed you. But the influence Calum had from Liverpool away onwards was incredible and it was only right that he won Player of the Season for the 2018/19 campaign.
13. Oliver Norwood
Central midfielder. Loan from Brighton & Hove Albion, 41 appearances, 5 goals.
Mr Promotion himself, Ollie Norwood was superb in 18/19, when any of the reliable midfield three of TC, KMac or StefJo needed replacing or rotating, Norwood was the man. Consistently brilliant in the middle of the park culminating in an incredible challenge at Wembley to help take us up, to this day I’m gutted we never made Norwood’s loan permanent.
12. Sone Aluko
Winger. Free transfer from Hull City, 54 appearances, 9 goals.
Along with Ayite and Kebano in the famous interchanging front three system during Slavisa’s first full season at the club, Aluko helped produce some of the most exhilarating attacking football the Cottage has seen in recent times. The fact Sone was apparently sold for as much as £7.5m to Reading means this has to be one of the best pieces of business the club has done in the last five years.
11. Scott Malone
Full-back. Swap deal from Cardiff City, 42 appearances, 6 goals.
Scott Malone produced one of the best seasons a full-back has ever seen in the Championship during the 2016/17 season. With six goals, eight assists, and a hell of a chant to go along with it, it’s absolutely fair to say Malone was so wonderful that season (and beautiful, magical).
10. Floyd Ayite
Winger. £1.8m from SC Bastia, 84 appearances, 14 goals.
Described by Tom Cairney as “the most underrated player” he’d ever played with, Ayite was one of the most technically gifted players brought to the club in recent years. To see Floyd score his one and only Premier League goal at the King Power Stadium was a great moment and fully deserved after two brilliant seasons from the Togolese winger in the Championship.
8. (Joint) Lucas Piazon and Tomas Kalas
Winger and Centre-back. Both loans from Chelsea.
76 appearances and 1 goal for Kalas, 58 appearances and 12 goals for Piazon.
I just couldn’t split these two. Like Norwood, it was upsetting not to see either of our two Chelsea loanees join the club permanently after the performances the pair put in for the club between the summers of 2016 and 2018. Kalas’s run from his own half to set up Mitrovic at the Den in the promotion season will live long in the memory for every Fulham fan at Millwall that night.Embed from Getty Images
7. Neeskens Kebano
Winger. £4m from KRC Genk, 99 appearances, 15 goals.
Just when you think Neeskens’ time at the club might be limited, he always seems to find a way back into the side. From the run of three free kicks in three games at the back end of the 2019/20 promotion season to the crazy dancing and actions we’ve grown to love him for, Neeskens is one of the most lovable characters to play for Fulham.
6. Joe Bryan
Full-back. £6m from Bristol City, 97 appearances, 4 goals.
In August 2020, Joe Bryan single handedly gave Fulham fans everywhere a performance that will live long in the memory with two goals to send the Whites back to the Premier League, including a free kick from near the halfway line. Although the left-back hasn’t featured as much this season, for the price we paid and his contribution to the club, on and off the pitch, Joe Bryan had to be high up this list.
5. Denis Odoi
Full-back. £900,000 from Lokeren, 157 appearances, 6 goals.
A versatile, reliable and lovable character, Denis Odoi has been an incredible servant to the club since joining in 2016. Bursting onto the scene at Craven Cottage with an inventive piece of skill in the season opener against Newcastle United, Odoi instantly became popular with the fanbase and nothing has changed since. 157 appearances and 2 promotions for less than a million pounds? What a piece of business that’s proved to be.
4. Stefan Johansen
Central midfielder. £2.07m from Celtic, 142 appearances, 21 goals.
Part of the famous midfield trio with Cairney and McDonald, Johansen was a key part of Slavisa Jokanovic’s side, contributing with healthy numbers of goals, assists and admittedly yellow cards too. Unfortunately Stefan hasn’t quite had the chances he’d have wanted in the Premier League with Fulham that he probably deserves, but his influence on the side when playing for the club has been fantastic.Embed from Getty Images
3. Kevin McDonald
Holding midfielder. £1.35m from Wolves, 129 appearances, 6 goals.
I must start by saying I hope that Kevin has a speedy recovery and comes back stronger from his pending operation, everyone involved with Fulham loves the man and wishes him well. What a man, what a leader, what a player, what a character. I don’t think anyone wants Kmac to leave the club after his playing days, the level of leadership he could have at this club at any level is vital, and I hope he stays within the set-up for many years.
2. Aleksandar Mitrovic
Striker. Loan then £22.23m from Newcastle United, 131 games, 53 goals.
I’m sure a lot of people would’ve expected Mitro top of this list and no doubt it would’ve been deserved. It’s not been nice seeing his lack of influence on the team this season, but the effect Mitro has had on the club with his performances and goals since joining in January 2018 have been incredible, especially the Golden Boot-winning promotion season in the 2019/20 campaign. What a player he’s been.
1. Harrison Reed
Holding midfielder. Loan then £5.85m from Southampton, 61 appearances.
Admittedly Harrison hasn’t been at the club for as long as the likes of McDonald, Johansen and Mitrovic. But I honestly cann’t remember Reed having a bad performance in a Fulham shirt. Even when the team is under performing, his head is up and his level doesn’t drop, and for the price we’ve got him for, he’s going to prove to be a bargain for years to come. I can’t look past him for a better piece of business from the club in the last five seasons.