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The most expensive Fulham transfer of each season since 2000, part 1

Written by Farrell Monk on 7th June 2023

Farrell Monk rates each of our most expensive signings in every season since the turn of the century.

Our record signing Joao Palhinha has had wonderful first year in black and white. But that’s not always been the case. Here are our most expensive signings of every season, and how I think they did – I’m not going to put heavy weighting to their transfer fee, and more focus on the player themselves and their impact on the team’s fortunes.

Note: Transfer fees are the estimates provided from various sources, mostly transfermarkt.

2000/01. Alain Goma – £4m 

Straight from the off there’s an anomaly in the list, as French centre back Goma was signed in March in the pre-transfer window wild west. On the face of it, Goma was another Al Fayed era signing typical of the time: a proven Premier League player dropping down a division (or sometimes two) looking to join the project.

Alain revealed recently that he had fallen out with the Newcastle manager Bobby Robson and therefore was desperate for an out. Due to the timing of his signing, Goma didn’t make a start until the Division One title had been confirmed. He made up for that though, becoming a near ever-present in the couple of years following in the Premiership as the Whites amassed a huge 26 clean sheets across those two seasons – the fourth highest total in the league.

The emergence of Zat Knight and the arrival of Carlos Bocanegra limited his opportunities thereafter as age crept in, but he’d already done more than enough to earn a decent rating in this piece – and that’s the real quiz. 8/10

2001/02. Steve Marlet – £11.5m 

When the person who paid for your services then seeks reparations from the person who recommended you – that person being your own manager – then you know that your stint didn’t exactly go to plan.

Steve Marlet was not the highest profile signing that summer, of course, but the large fee meant it had the biggest focus on it. Marlet didn’t register a goal until December, and there were only brief flashes of the reasons why Tigana had recommended signing the pacey French international.

But only 11 goals in 55 league games at centre forward does say a lot, and when Coleman took over his reputation had already been spent. The caretaker manager only sporadically utilised him and Marlet moved on just two years into his Fulham career.

However, it must be pointed out that five goals in our 2002/03 Intertoto/UEFA Cup campaigns means the deal wasn’t a complete failure. We could see his talent, and plenty would argue he was being played out of position. But that’s an unproven theory due the fact he formed a successful strike partnership alongside Didier Drogba at Marseille after his departure. 5/10

2002/03. Facundo Sava – £2m 

Argentinian Sava was one of the two signings under the brief-but-chaotic tenure of Director of Football, Franco Baresi (the other was lesser-spotted goalkeeper Martin Herrera). He suffered from limited opportunities, but when they came, they were memorable – and he became a bit of a cult hero as a result. He rounded off our incredible injury-time comeback away at Middlesbrough, he (nearly) bagged a hat-trick in our first major scalp in the Premier League against Liverpool (weirdly, his second went down as Sean Davis’s despite an obvious deflection off Sava), and he revealed the famous mask of Zorro every time he scored. These are all etched into Fulham folklore – but that’s where Sava’s impact ends. 5/10 (for the memes)

2003/04. Collins John – £2m 

It took a little while for the Liberian-born John to really get going, therefore despite being the most expensive signing that season, he was a bona-fide bargain overall. The four goals in two games at the start of his Fulham stint masked a difficult first couple of years in white. It wasn’t until 2005/06 that he finished as top goal scorer with 11 goals from a remarkable 15 starts, including that Van Basten-esque volley up at Teesside.

But sadly, it quickly turned south for the striker. He failed to regain form and fitness following a bad knee injury and went out on a series of unsuccessful loans. But 20 goals in just 41 league starts is an excellent return and a sign of what could have been. 7/10

2004/05. Papa Bouba Diop – £6m 

Senegal’s 2002 World Cup hero Diop was quite the coup. His reputation as a tough tackler with an imposing frame earned him the nickname of the ‘Wardrobe’, which does him a slight disservice. The fulcrum of the plucky Coleman era, Papa Bouba Diop was someone who had plenty to offer with the ball at his feet.

His magic moments include his arrow-like volley versus Chelsea, and the thunderbastard that almost broke Gentleman Jim’s microphone as well as the net just to name a couple. Said thunderbastard,  and the enchanting dance in front of the Cottage that followed against Manchester United, summed up the talented and cheery midfielder.

A series of hamstring injuries and fitness issues meant Cookie opted for others for a brief period, but his eventual return to the team is a cherished memory. Almost immediately after coming off the bench, he beautifully shrugged off two Newcastle defenders to set up McBride for a winner. It was shame he was then part of the Lawrie Sanchez clear-out that gutted most of the squad, but nothing will compare to hearing of Diop’s untimely death at just 42. A firm Fulham fan favourite, and a brilliant transfer whose football career arguably should have gone further. 9/10

2005/06 – Michael Brown – £1.5m 

The functional and gritty midfielder was signed from Spurs in the January transfer window and made more of an impact on opposing players ankles than he did to the Fulham record books. He was made captain after the departure of Luis Boa Morte a year later and then left that summer. He was a necessary signing at the time, featuring whenever he was available, and did OK. A solid six. 6/10

2006/07. Franck Queudrue – £3m 

Stylish left-back Queudrue was seen as a bit of steal at the time, with the Frenchman coming off Middlesbrough’s epic run to the UEFA Cup Final, plus he was a League cup winner in 2004. He enjoyed a decent first season, with personal highs of a late equaliser away at relegation-bound Charlton and his hilariously woeful cross indirectly leading to a memorable goal at Stamford Bridge. Another one for the Sanchez clear-out, with the defender publicly deriding the new manager’s tactics on his way out of Motspur Park. 7/10   

2007/08. Diomansy Kamara – £6m

We’ve previously talked about the Sanchez clear-out, but who did the former Wycombe and Northern Ireland boss replace them with? “Joe” Kamara came with solid Championship pedigree, scoring 20 for a West Brom team that missed out on promotion via the play off final. A £6m fee in the mid-noughties for a second-tier player raised eyebrows, especially because he had two less-than-notable years in the Premier League.

He was another player who showed in glimpses that he had the talent, skill and athleticism, but often the end product was lacking. He mostly spent his time going on mazy runs that resembled going up and down the aisles in your local Asda. He’ll forever be remembered for the late bicycle kick versus Spurs and the magical winner that sent the Manchester City away end potty in the great escape season. Kamara suffered a knee injury that kept him out most of the following season, but when he did return it was predominately via fleeting appearances as he struggled to maintain impact, seeing out his contract after two loans. 5/10

2008/09. Andy Johnson – £11.8m

Diminutive Johnson came with a then-record price tag and a good helping of expectation. On paper his first year at the club reads seven goals in 31 appearances. Not a great return you may think, however, his contribution to Fulham’s highest ever placing of seventh that season cannot be understated.

His endless Labrador-like energy to terrorise defenders on-and-off the ball and was the perfect foil alongside strike-partner Bobby Zamora. Andy’s place in the team never was under threat and would have featured heavily the following season if not for a horrid rugby-style challenge that dislocated his collarbone in the first leg of the final play-off round versus Amkar Perm. The sight of which still gives me a little PTSD. That and a persistent knee injury stalled what would have been a more impactful four years at the Cottage.

Mark Hughes would opt to use Johnson in streaks and almost certainly didn’t recognise or utilise him as well as Hodgson. Undoubtedly his most viewed moment in black and white came on that glorious sunny day in October 2011 as his superb hat-trick contributed to the 6-0 demolition job of QPR. That certainly adds a point to his score. Oh, and if you can find his goal against Wisła Kraków, you’re in for a treat. 8/10

2009/10. Damien Duff – £4m

It’s still remarkable that of all the talents that Newcastle went down with the season prior, not one bigger club thought to stump up a modest fee for the two-time title-winning winger. Fulham reaped the benefits of Duffer being unfairly vilified in a calamitous season for the Toon. But rarely has a signing instantly become such a hit amongst the Fulham faithful.

Oodles of energy supplemented his classy technical ability, whether is he was deployed on the left or the right side of midfield. He was an absolute nightmare for fullbacks because if he had not beat you one way to put in a delightful cross, he would be smashing one towards the goal the other way. Instrumental in every season, the Irishman’s quality never really waned in his later years. However, Martin Jol opted for other options in the relegation season before a knee injury cut short his final year and couldn’t help Fulham survive the drop. 9/10

2010/11. Mousa Dembélé – £5m

Mousa Dembélé, the first of his name. King of the Anchors. And Lord of the seven successful dribbles per game (probably). I cannot think of many other yin and yang players from one season to the next. He was deployed largely in a more forward role initially and you could probably copy Diomansy Kamara’s earlier entry. But the off-season decision by Martin Jol to transform the patchy Belgian into a midfielder was a stroke of genius. Mousa came alive that season and many fans point to him as being one, if not, the best player they have ever seen play for Fulham. He could dribble through an army of White Walkers and come through unscathed with the ball still at his feet. A glorious footballer who went criminally underappreciated unless you supported Fulham or played for Spurs. 9/10

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