George Rossiter suggests some locations for the four players that Marco Silva has training alone ahead of the new season.
After reports that Fulham quartet Josh Onomah, Ivan Cavaleiro, Anthony Knockaert and Terence Kongolo have been training separately from Marco Silva’s main squad and are free to leave the club this summer, each will be looking elsewhere for a new club. Whether in need of crucial match sharpness or a desire to prove a point, each of the four still have something to give. Here, I look at a potentially perfect move for each player, as well as an alternative or two!
Josh is Enfield born and bred; his two permanent clubs are Tottenham and Fulham, and the man has even appeared in an AJ Tracey verse. He is not leaving London – well, not permanently, anyway. It probably makes sense to rebuild a reputation that has been slightly tarnished after a lack of minutes throughout the 2021/22 season under Marco Silva, therefore we look towards the Championship. I could not fathom the idea of sending Josh to a certain other South West London side, and Millwall doesn’t seem a good fit. So here we are, pitting two rivals against each other in a bidding war for ‘Maradonomah’ himself.
Luton Boss Nathan Jones has recently spoken of his happiness in his current squad and his desire to only improve on the players he has at his disposal. Luton often operated with a midfield three last season, including the likes of the hugely impressive Allan Campbell and Championship stalwart Henri Lansbury. Onomah would slot seamlessly into Jones’s midfield, providing a creative spark alongside Campbell, and likely giving Luton a quicker and higher quality option than the likes of Lansbury and even new signing from Derby, Louie Watson.
Alternatively, Josh could look towards recently relegated Watford. Newly-appointed manager Rob Edwards seems to point towards a change of strategy at Vicarage Road. Watford appear to be looking towards a long-term plan by bringing in a young, homegrown head coach. While the Hornets have quality in their midfield options, Gosling and Cleverley have both entered their mid-30s and Onomah is still just 25. The downsides to a potential Watford move, and why I would choose Luton in this scenario, are that not only is Onomah not as guaranteed to start at Watford, but if old habits kick in and Edwards doesn’t make it to Christmas, Josh’s place in the squad could be in limbo under another new boss.
Benfica and Sporting Club are undoubtedly the two biggest clubs in Lisbon. Unfortunately I can’t see two sides with such pedigree with European football to boot, to come calling for Ivan, whose home city of Vila Franca de Xira is in the Lisbon district in Portugal. However, there are other options should the winger look closer to home to get back to form after a promotion campaign that saw him face injuries and upon return struggled for minutes behind an in-form Neeskens Kebano. While there are many options in Lisbon, Casa Pia and Belenenses stand out as two particularly interesting prospects.
Casa Pia, named after a Portuguese children’s charity, recently promoted to Portugal’s top tier, the Primeira Liga, and will play there for the first time in 83 years. After finishing runners up in the second division last season, ‘the Geese’, as they are known, face a mammoth effort to compete and stay in the league. In a squad lacking in depth out wide, Cavaleiro would add flair and pace to a team already stable at the other end of the pitch. Casa Pia conceded just 22 in their promotion campaign, nine fewer than any other club, including champions Rio Ave.
Elsewhere in the Portuguese capital, Belenenses (B-SAD) are left reeling from their relegation to the second tier, finishing bottom of the Primeira Liga. After mid table finishes in the three seasons since being founded in 2018 (the result of a long legal procedure which saw the club take over from the original C.F. Os Belenenses in the Primeira Liga), this ‘new’ Belenenses face the prospect of aiming for promotion for the very first time. With two promotions in the bag at Fulham, Cavaleiro knows how it’s done. With a new, young manager in Franclim Carvalho, the new Belenenses, could be another promising prospect for a Cavaleiro homecoming.
This isn’t like the previous two where the direct idea is keeping a player in their home city, pitting rival teams against each other in a bidding war. Guingamp and Derby County are nothing alike, but still both appetising options. After playing such an insignificant role in both the relegation season under Scott Parker, and the title winning season under Marco Silva, Knockaert, probably more than any of the others, needs a fresh start and some minutes under his belt.
Knockaert was born in Roubaix, a city in the Northern region of France. However, his first opportunity came on the West side of the country with Guingamp, making his debut in 2010 and eventually earning a move to England with Leicester in 2012. A return to Guingamp would be perfect for Knockaert. The Brittany outfit finished sixth in last season’s Ligue 2, France’s second division, and will be looking to push for promotion to Ligue 1 in the coming season. Knockaert is a promotion expert, with four to his name in England with Leicester, Brighton and Fulham. That experience and a fresh lease of life back at where it all started could rejuvenate the winger’s career.
The alternative is a fun option. After such little game time in the Championship last time, a move to League One probably shouldn’t seem so extraordinary. Similarly to Guingamp, Derby will be aiming for a promotion of their own. Knockaert would make a genuine claim for an all-time Championship all stars XI, which is why a move to Derby could be so appealing. James Chester, Curtis Davies, Richard Stearman, Craig Forsyth, Conor Hourihane, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Tom Barkhuizen and David Mcgoldrick. Why not move to Pride Park Knocky, your Championship all-star companions are there waiting for you.
What can we say about Kongolo? On his rare outings for the Whites, he’s seemed solid if not spectacular, but has been so hard to judge with such an array of injuries and fitness issues. If fit, he could still easily be a good option as a Premier League back-up at Craven Cottage, but that seems too much of a gamble to take for Marco Silva, who is allowing Kongolo to leave the club. So let’s look at some potential destinations, one in his home country, and one closer to his current home.
Cambuur is an exciting project right now. The Dutch club won the Eerste Divisie, the second division in the Netherlands, in 2021, with an astonishing 109 goals and a 15-point gap to second place Go Ahead Eagles. They followed that up last season by finishing ninth in the Eredivisie, one place and two points below the league’s Conference League play-offs qualification system. However, despite finishing in the top half, they still managed to concede the most goals in the division. Adding Kongolo would be a win-win for all parties if he were to stay fit. Cambuur get a great defender and Kongolo gets valuable minutes into his legs with some home country comforts too.
While a hugely different proposition to Cambuur, another option could be a move to the West of the UK, to Swansea City. The opportunity to play in a side who look to play progressive, passing football would suit Kongolo to a tee. Furthermore, being managed by Russell Martin could be of huge benefit, with a mutual understanding of playing the role of centre back. It’s potentially unlikely that another club in the English pyramid would take a punt on someone with an injury record like Kongolo’s, but if it worked, he would be a hell of a signing for the Swans.