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Five realistic right-back targets

Written by George Rossiter on 19th December 2022

George Rossiter collects five names he thinks the Whites should look at in January.

Fulham are expected to be in the market for a right back in the January window. While Kenny Tete is a fantastic option, fitness issues continue to plague his chances of going a full season without injury. Meanwhile, Kevin Mbabu has struggled to establish himself under Marco Silva, with his struggles highlighted recently by Peter Rutzler in The Athletic.

Links have already been made to Cedric Soares of Arsenal and Roma outcast Rick Karsdorp, so it seems evident Silva wants a new option in that position. Here are five other realistic targets Fulham would be wise to look at in January.

1. Max Aarons

Since the 2018/19 season when Aarons broke into the Norwich side, playing 41 times that season and contributing to eight goals, the young defender has barely missed a game for the Canaries, especially under Daniel Farke. However, in two recent fixtures against Stoke and QPR, Dean Smith favoured Sam Byram in that position. While the progression expected of Aarons may not have yet shown, it is important to remember he is still just 22 years old and has played 18 times for the England under-21s side. If Aarons’ career at Carrow Road shows any signs of stagnating, he could be a really sensible pick-up for any Premier League side.

Aarons has the potential to be everything Marco Silva loves in a full-back. Defensively, he proved to be a bright spark in a Norwich side that struggled in their efforts to stay up in the Premier League during the 19/20 and 21/22 campaigns. In the Championship campaigns proceeding those Premier League seasons, Aarons showed his ability to get forward more, with a total of 16 goal contributions in 107 Championship appearances. The ability to cope defensively in the Premier League and attack well in the Championship are attributes similar to that of Antonee Robinson, who Silva has now established as a fantastic Premier League player. Maybe the same could happen with Aarons…

2. Joao Mario

No, not that European Championship winner Joao Mario. This 22-year-old right back is an exciting talent, playing for Portuguese heavyweights Porto. There had to be a Portuguese inclusion in here, with Silva’s proven track record this season of getting the best out of Portuguese-speaking signings such as Palhinha, Pereira and Willian. Mario has represented Portugal at many youth levels, from under-18 to under-21 level where he was capped 14 times. He broke into the Porto side in 2020 and has now got a plethora of experience in senior football, including 10 appearances in the Champions League.

Last season, Joao Mario played most of Porto’s games across all competitions, but has been restricted to just seven league appearances this time out so far, playing 90 minutes just twice in the Liga Portugal. Mario also has versatility on his side. While the majority of his senior career has been spent at right-back, he has played games and contributed towards goals from both wing positions at times. A young Portuguese player with bags of potential and European experience could be a perfect acquisition for Marco Silva’s side.

3. Ruben Aguilar

Aguilar is a much more experienced option compared to some of the others on this list. The 29-year-old has a French international cap to his name and would provide not only a quality option at right-back, but also a different type of player to Mbabu, being slightly more defensive-minded. The Frenchman has vast experience of Ligue 1, building a solid career for himself in stints at Montpellier and now Monaco, where he has played seven times in the Europa League.

Similarly to Joao Mario, Aguilar has struggled for consistent game time this season, playing 90 minutes just twice for Monaco in Ligue 1. The lack of minutes comes down to a few things. Aguilar has struggled with a heel bone injury, which may leave Fulham fans wary after the last French full-back we signed and the lack of subsequent minutes Kurzawa has played so far this season. Furthermore, the emergence of Monaco’s young Brazilian full-back Vanderson has seen Aguilar’s starting spot under threat even when he’s fit. This may leave a quality operator with valuable experience available to Fulham at a tempting cut price this winter.

4. Julian Ryerson

Union Berlin’s story in the last half a decade has been nothing short of a fairytale. The German club have gone from the second tier to European football and fighting for a spot in the Champions League in the space of three or four seasons. One player that’s been a part of that journey is the Norwegian Julian Ryerson. Signed from Viking FK, Ryerson has gone onto make more than100 appearances for Union Berlin and 15 caps for Norway. The 25-year-old has very much risen with Union Berlin and is now a quality operator in one of Europe’s biggest leagues.

Like Joao Mario, Ryerson offers versatility, playing a lot of his career in midfield, but now has established himself at full-back for both club and country. He is capable of playing at wing-back or as a standard full-back in a back four and offers a number of qualities similar to Kenny Tete, which may make him a perfect alternative for a player who has so often struggled with his fitness.

5. Josip Juranovic

After the signing of Ragnar Sigurdsson in 2016, you could argue that Fulham and Tony Khan would be wise to go nowhere near a player who has impressed at a recent major tournament, as Juranovic has done in Croatia’s run to the World Cup semi-finals. With his form for club and country with Celtic and Croatia, you would find it strange that the Scottish champions would even consider selling, but with the signing of Alistair Johnson, Celtic seem ready to see Juranovic move on.

There’s no doubt many clubs across Europe will show an interest with Juranovic’s stock rising so much in Qatar, so this may be an option Fulham find themselves not wanting to be in a bidding war for. However if it gets late in the window and the Croatian is still available, it may become a viable option. With 27 international caps as well as European experience with Celtic and Hajduk Split, Juranovic looks like a player who would be of value to many a Premier League club, including Fulham.

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