George Rossiter looks at some potential options for Silva’s squad for 2023/24 that could potentially be signed on a free.
One of the key perceived advantages of securing an early promotion back to the Premier League, rather than through the play-offs, was the additional time to consider how the squad could be bolstered in the transfer market. Surely then, that will be the case this season too. With Marco Silva’s side sat comfortably in the top half of the Premier League, Fulham have plenty of time to look towards the summer window.
With Premier League football all-but guaranteed and a brilliant first season back in England’s top tier nearly under our belt, Fulham are in a strong negotiating position. With a number of quality players coming to the end of their contract in the coming months, I’ve had a look at who we could target.
With loan deals and contracts expiring, it looks like the defensive department will need refreshing this summer.
This wouldn’t be a new path for Fulham to go down. It was only this January that Fulham were being heavily linked with the Mali international, who has 41 caps to his name, before eventually opting for Cedric Soares on a loan deal. Right-back remains a topic of conversation, however. While only out on loan, Kevin Mbabu’s future at the club looks bleak. What happens with the previously mentioned Cedric, will also be up for debate.
Fulham will be looking for permanent competition for Kenny Tete. Traore would be a quality option if he doesn’t sign a new deal by the summer in France. Even after recently turning 31, Traore is a vital cog at Rennes, playing in 30+ games in five consecutive seasons for the club, including experience in the Champions League, Europa League and Conference League.
Tim Ream has been wonderful this season, but we can’t ignore the elephant in the room: his age. Furthermore, Tosin has been linked with a move away, especially since being displaced in the side by Issa Diop. And let’s not forget Shane Duffy, whose contract expires this summer too. So the centre-back position looks likely to be reinforced this summer in one way or another.
Rayo Vallecano are a team on the up. The past three seasons has seen evident progression. From promotion to La Liga in 2020/21, to finishing 12th in their first season back in the top tier, to now being in a race for Europe. Catena has been with Vallecano throughout that rise, contributing consistently to their good fortunes. At 28, and in his prime, Catena could provide a valuable option next season.
Similarly to the right-back position, Fulham will be looking to add to the left-back department this summer. Antonee Robinson’s performances in the Premier League this season have been fantastic, but problems have come when he’s not been available. Layvin Kurzawa’s issues with fitness have almost certainly dented any chances of that move being made permanent, so you’d imagine Fulham will look elsewhere for competition to Robinson.
Aaron Martin has experience in some of Europe’s top leagues, both with Espanyol in Spain, and now Mainz in the Bundesliga in Germany. The Spaniard is only 25 and still operating at a good level, but recent competition for his position at Mainz from Frenchman Anthony Caci may entice Martin to look elsewhere for a new challenge. Martin also provides a threat going forward, with three goals and three assists in 19 Bundesliga appearances this season so far.
Extra depth in the middle
Sasa Lukic looks a quality addition to Fulham’s midfield department. Calm on the ball and able to dictate the pace of play, the Serb looks a real asset. However, what appears to still be missing is a direct replacement for Joao Palhinha. If the Portuguese superstar is to continue playing the way he does, which we love and wouldn’t want to change, we have to accept suspensions will come, and that a suitable option for that holding role is needed when Palhinha is not available, here’s a couple of options…
Uribe is 31 now and probably has one more big move in him. His contract with FC Porto is coming to an end after a thoroughly impressive four seasons in Portugal, which has yielded two league titles among other honours. The Colombian, who has scored five times for his country, is a combative midfielder with 20 Champions League appearances to his name. Fulham wouldn’t be the only English club to show interest in Uribe, but may be able to persuade him to the Cottage with the guarantee of Premier League football, and the successful from Portuguese football to the Premier League that has been shown by Palhinha.
A slightly more lesser known option could be Stijn Spierings of Toulouse in France. The Dutch holding midfielder has adapted well to Ligue 1 football after playing almost every game in Toulouse’s promotion to France’s top division last season. Spierings has multiple bows to his arrow. Some 21 yellow cards in his last two full seasons in France show the ‘Palhinha’ side to his game. But as well as this, he has the ability to push forward and score goals too. Spierings scored nine for Toulouse in 2020/21 and seven for Waalwijk in the 2018/19 season in his native Holland. This sort of under-the-radar signing could be a quality option for Fulham, while facing little competition in the market.
The Mitro alternative
Carlos Vinicius is a perfectly fine striker. As has previously been mentioned, being the willing back-up to someone like Aleksandar Mitrovic is a tricky job. What Fulham have potentially lacked so far this year is a real alternative up front, a different type of striker to what Mitro offers the side. A lot of the marquee options in the free agent market this summer are maybe too similar to Mitrovic, so here’s a couple of slightly rogue ideas…
Tai Baribo, I expect, will definitely be the least well-known name on this list, but potentially the player I see as most intriguing. Baribo is an Israeli international, who made his Israel debut in 2022 and has since scored three goals in seven appearances, and will be someone who already knows Manor Solomon, who we hope will be here next season. Playing for Wolfsberger in the Austrian Bundesliga, Baribo has 30 goals in his 56 games for the club since joining in the summer of 2021, and looks a really good goalscorer based on stats alone. An opportunity to join a Premier League club at 25 years old would be appealing no doubt, and like Spierings, or even more so, would be an option that could go completely unnoticed at other clubs looking for a striker.
Mariano is 29 now, and is yet to ever properly establish himself at Real Madrid. The Dominican Republic international may never have grown into the player expected of him, but there’s still a goalscorer in there. It wasn’t too long ago that he was scoring 18 and assisting a further five for Lyon. We know that Marco Silva loves getting the most out of players who have a point to prove and want to reinvigorate their career, and the same chance could be offered to Mariano, who will have to get his next career move correct at the age of 29.