Our best and worst January signings of the last five years

Adam Pogrund 2nd February 2022
© Dara Curran

In his debut piece for Fulhamish, Adam Pogrund looks at our varying business in the recently-closed window.

While Neco Williams was the only new arrival at Motspur Park this window, we’ve been known to delve more deeply into the winter market in seasons gone by. Having had little stability in the last five years, alternating between two divisions, Tony Khan has been forced into trying to strengthen the squad come January, often with mixed results.

Here are some of Fulham’s best and worst January signings in recent years.

Best

Aleksander Mitrovic

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Mitro’s undoubtedly the top signing on this list. The gutsy striker has been Fulham’s best player over the last four years, and turned into a cult hero since joining late in the day in January 2018.

Slavisa Jokanovic’s Serbian connection facilitated the signing of his fellow countryman, after he persuaded him with a last-minute text message once his move to Anderlecht had collapsed – and thank God for it. First as a loan player and then permanently six months later, Mitrovic has put up remarkable numbers for Fulham, scoring 80 league goals in 147 appearances. He is currently only two goals away from breaking the goal record for one season in the second tier, with only 28 games having been played, and him scoring the same number of goals.

Ryan Babel

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Babel arrived in January 2019 in an attempt to bolster Fulham’s attack and try preventing an immediate return back to the Championship. Arriving from Besiktas, with strongly dyed red hair, Babel inspired hope and made a huge impact, but it was unfortunately not enough to keep Ranieri and later Parker’s side safe. He scored five goals and assisted three, including against his former side Liverpool, and a scorcher at home to Cardiff. Certainly a success, the Dutchman then moved back to Turkey, this time with Galatasaray, after relegation.

Matt Targett

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Targett’s signing provided cover in the left back position and allowed top scorer Ryan Sessegnon more attacking freedom in the second half of the 2017/18 promotion season. Despite only a brief loan spell, Targett performed admirably and consistently. Joining when Fulham were in 7th place and out of the play-off places, he formed a crucial part of the promotion campaign. He played the full 90 minutes in the play-off final win, in Fulham’s first trip to Wembley since 1975.

Worst

Lazar Markovic

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This one can only be described as bizarre. On deadline day 2019 Fulham signed Markovic on a free transfer from Liverpool, largely because he was Mitro’s mate. A statement from the club on the official website read “Fulham received very good recommendations from Aleksandar Mitrović regarding the player.” This footballing nepotism is the sort of practice that might be seen on a Sunday morning at Clapham Common when your goalkeeper drops out at the last minute. It’s more questionable when in a relegation dogfight at the bottom of the Premier League. He made a single appearance, as a half time substitute, against West Ham in a 3-1 loss later in February. It is safe to say his contributions to the club do not live long in the memory of Fulham fans.

Terrence Kongolo

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It might be too early to judge Kongolo so harshly, and in his few performances for the club he has not played badly. When he signed in 2020 there was excitement at the prospect of a Dutch international with experience of surviving relegation battles being added to the ranks.  However, mostly as a result of injuries, he has only played in two league games in as many years. The injuries are unfortunate but for someone with a cost rising to as high as £7 million he cannot be described as having paid back this fee in any way.

Harvard Nordtveit

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Again it does seem harsh to attribute blame to Nordtveit. He joined an ultimately doomed Fulham team midway through the season and tried his best in the limited time he stayed at the Cottage. Nevertheless, his signing was odd. There were already five recognised centre-backs in the Fulham squad, and our permanent players could have benefitted from those minutes. His relatively forgetful period of the club ended with four losses in five games

Josh Maja

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It all started so well for the former academy player Maja, as he scored both goals in an away win at Goodison Park. There was excitement to see how the Nigerian international could improve the attacking line after some promising performances in Ligue 1 with Bordeaux. Yet he only scored once more, from the penalty spot, in his final 14 appearances. He departed amicably, but the club deciding not to take up their option of signing him on a full-time basis speaks volumes. He’s now on loan at Stoke.