Alex Mackenzie believes we may be judging our Portuguese enforcer too harshly – and too soon.
I don’t know why we are so concerned about the reports surrounding Joao’s happiness and application. I don’t think he is the type of player to sulk or lose focus. Never once has he shown that he has that in his locker.
When Joao first arrived at Fulham, from the first minute against Liverpool, I – like everyone else at Craven Cottage that day – knew we’d signed a proper player. He was ferocious in the tackle and seemed completely confident on the ball from the off. You could see immediately that he’s kind of player who knew that the pitch is a workplace and not a playground; someone that would add to the steel in the team. The main part of the engine room.
The reports coming out now about his desire being questioned and whether he can keep up his commitment are totally misplaced. Joao is, from our own experience, a true professional. He doesn’t let what happens off the pitch change the way he plays on it. He’ll know that if his performance drops now, he’ll no longer be wanted by Bayern. He also knows that if he wants to leave in January, he’ll have to earn that right – it is not set in stone.
I can see why people will now be thinking this is the beginning of the end. And the club have always got the capacity to cash in on top talent. But why are we thinking that Joao is unhappy? I don’t think he will strop in the corner and feel aggrieved he didn’t get a move, for all we know the club saw more money that they could put into the stadium and went for it at the last minute thinking Scott McTominay was in the bag.
Our outgoing transfer policy plan has long been clear: keep the best players we have unless someone comes in with a bid we can’t say no to, and we have a replacement lined up. Joao’s situation didn’t fulfil the criteria, and he stayed.
Fulham may have taken a step backwards in the summer, but I think this actually bodes well for keeping Joao. If we have indeed gone backwards, Fulham will likely perform worse and Joao will have fewer admirers come January.
If on the other hand, Fulham string together a run of games over the next few weeks that prove they are performing at the level they always have under Marco Silva (here’s to hoping) Joao may actually decide he wants to stay on for another full year before re-assessing come the summer. I’m sure there are a couple of people who can convince him that a January move is a risk, and that Fulham are still a club going places in the seasons ahead.
Silva is key
Marco Silva will be the biggest motivator now for Joao. This is where the man management skills he has have to come to the fore. When Mitrovic first wanted to leave the club during the summer that Silva arrived, Marco changed his mind, and we all know Mitro went on to score 43 goals in the Championship. Marco was his counsel and made sure he sold Mitrovic the Fulham project.
Silva can do the same again here and maybe even push Joao towards committing his long-term future. The key will be making sure the Joao understands just how loved he will be if he plays without making a fuss. If he can keep his head right and apply himself in the same way, I’ve no doubt we’ll love him even more.
We might need a statement from the player that he wants to stay, but what better statement to make than contributing even more to the team on the pitch as if nothing ever happened? Even so, do we really need convincing that he doesn’t get distracted by off-pitch drama? I don’t think that’s the Palhinha we know. Either way, we’ll find out when the whistle blows this Saturday.