After the departure of our biggest summer flop, Charles Jones ponders who the worst signing in Fulham history is.
Kevin Mbabu’s time at Craven Cottage is over. The Swiss international has joined Servette on loan, and according to Fabrizio Romano, a permanent move is on the cards in the summer.
It’s impossible to call Mbabu anything but a flop. He arrived at the club with Champions League pedigree on big wages only to look completely out of his depth almost immediately.
Mbabu may be the worst signing of the 2022/23 season, but by no means is he Fulham’s worst signing ever. So, who is the nadir when it comes to transfer business in SW6?
The honourable mentions
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa
The most talented player on this list. There’s a genuine case to make that Anguissa is one of the best midfielders in Europe right now for Napoli.
Of course, you could say that the likes of Mark Fotheringham, Marcelo Djalo and Rafik Halliche belong on this list way before Anguissa, but they were largely signed for nominal fees or free transfers, so while they were some of Fulham’s worst-ever players, the actual signings weren’t that damaging.
A club-record signing at £30m, Anguissa looked completely lost in his first season in English football. A relegation and a loan to Villarreal would follow, and upon his return in 2020/21, he looked a different player.
However, for all of his flair and ability, he was way too much of a luxury player at that time and he did very little to help us stave off the threat of relegation in the end.
Sold for a £17m loss when joining Napoli for £13m, Anguissa has to be mentioned as one of our worst signings.
For the longest time it looked as though Jean-Michael Seri was going to cement himself as Fulham’s worst-ever signing after arriving for £25m in 2018.
Amid links to Barcelona and Chelsea, Seri was tipped for huge things, but he struggled to adapt to the Premier League and lost any sort of confidence. Within two years he was being left out of Scott Parker’s 25-man squad for the 2020/21 season and it looked as though his legacy was set in stone as our worst purchase in history.
However, in a twist that nobody saw coming, Seri came back into the fold last season under Marco Silva, and won all of our hearts.
The Serissaince was incredible to witness, and while he may well be Marco Silva’s man and better than Zidane, £25m, relegation and huge wages earn Seri an honourable mention here.
Yes, he was a free transfer, but there may not be a signing that epitomises Fulham’s failings in the transfer market in the 2010s more than Markovic.
Cast your mind back to January 2019. We were desperate for something, anything to help us stay up. Deadline day came around and there were plenty of rumours to be excited about.
Youssuf Sabaly could’ve been the answer to our right-back problems. Martin Hinterreger could’ve sorted our defence, but no, as the deadline came and went there were whispers that a deal sheet had gone in. Who were we signing? Was it a new defender to fix our backline? No, it was Lazar Markovic on a free, signed because he was recommended by Aleksandar Mitrovic. A backroom team that prided itself on using data and a both-boxes checked system signed someone on deadline day because Mitro said he was half-decent – they even admitted it when announcing his arrival.
A last-minute panic signing that didn’t pay off. Markovic just about summed up everything wrong with us at that time.
The fourth player on this list signed during the 2018/19 season, Alfie Mawson may well be the worst signing we made that year.
£20m for a defender who, ultimately, didn’t prove to be an upgrade on Tim Ream and Denis Odoi is shoddy work from the recruitment team.
Injuries, of course, played their part, but there’s a difference between signing a player who had some bad luck and spending £20m on a footballer who was prone to getting injured when taking his boots off.
Once upon a time, Mawson was being called up to the England squad, £20m and four seasons later he’s just announced his retirement from the game after dropping down to League One with Wycombe.
Part bad luck, part bad business. Sadly, Mawson does get an honourable mention here.
Far from the worst player you’re ever going to see in a Fulham shirt – he was a France international for goodness sake – but Marlet represented awful business.
Signed in 2001 for £11.5m, according to one transfer inflation model, that fee comes out to around £41m in modern terms – and even then that was calculated in 2019, so you’re probably looking at closer to £50m in reality.
11 goals in four years is a poor return to say the least, while any signing that causes your owner to take the manager to court has to be considered one of the very worst.
Why were Fulham so obsessed with the idea of signing Terence Kongolo?
He joined on loan in January 2020. He was then injured on his league debut and ruled out for the season.
We were then promoted to the Premier League. Most normal clubs would then move onto bigger and better targets, but not Fulham.
Despite the fact that Kongolo had failed a medical with Sheffield United just two weeks prior, Fulham signed the Dutch defender on deadline day that summer.
What happens when you sign a player who was injured on his debut and then fails a medical at another club? You guessed it, they struggle for fitness.
Kongolo played just one league game for Fulham after arriving in 2020, appearing against Wolves in April 2021, but, as luck would have it, he suffered a season-ending injury in that game.
An unfortunate situation to say the least, but one we should’ve seen coming a mile off.
Anthony Knockaert probably wasn’t as bad as you remember him being in the 2019/20 promotion season, but the fact that we backed ourselves into such a corner with this signing makes it an absolute disaster.
Due to the obligation to buy in his loan agreement, our first signing upon promotion was a player who we immediately wanted to get rid of for £15m.
Imagine signing a player for £15m and loaning them out during the same transfer window under any other circumstance? It’s insanity.
There was just a huge lack of foresight here. Since we spent that £15m, Knockaert has played just four league games for Fulham. There may not be a worse value for money signing in our history. Well, there is one…
The only right answer
Who else was it going to be?
The strangest, most costly, most frustrating signing in our history. This may not be just the worst signing in Fulham history, but the worst signing in Premier League history.
Mitroglou arrived on deadline day in January 2014, and it looked like an inspired piece of business. He’d been ripping it up over in Greece and in the Champions League, and we were desperate for goals.
Unfortunately, this one didn’t quite go to plan. The Greek arrived with an injury and seemingly had no intention of getting fit during his time in west London, with Steve Sidwell noting previously that the only thing the striker seemed to do on the training ground was eat.
Mitroglou would play just three games for Fulham, and, even more annoyingly he scored tons of goals after leaving, hitting 36 goals in 60 games for Benfica after ditching London for Lisbon.
Of course, the cherry on the cake is the fact that the alternative to Mitroglou at the time was Antoine Griezmann, a future World Cup winner and Ballon d’Or contender.
By every metric imaginable, Mitroglou is the worst signing Fulham have ever made.