I’d forgotten all about my pet goldfish dying of dementia in 2001.
But, as soon as I watched Fulham in the Premier League, that same sense of slow, inevitable death came rushing back. In the end, Spencer the goldfish put up more of a fight, even if that was just a few sorry thrashes of his tail.
From the outside looking in, becoming the first promoted team to spend £100million before becoming the first promoted team to spend £100mil and be relegated takes some doing. In reality, £100m was never going to be enough to keep Fulham in the Premier League.
When the dust from Fulham’s play-off final victory against Aston Villa settled, six members of Slavisa Jokanovic’s squad- Aleksandar Mitrovic, Matt Targett, Oliver Norwood, Lucas Piazon, Tomas Kalas and Sheyi Ojo- returned to their parent club, with Ryan Fredericks completing a free transfer to West Ham.
Anyone who had watched Fulham play during that swashbuckling Championship season could see that Denis Odoi, Aboubakar Kamara, Neeskens Kebano, Floyd Ayite and Cyrus Christie weren’t cut out for the Premier League, while the jury was still out on Tim Ream, Stefan Johansen and Kevin McDonald’s due to their lack of pace.
Of the outfield players left on Fulham’s books, only Ryan Sessegnon and Tom Cairney really inspired hope. Ironically, Cairney and Sessegnon would be the two players ostracised by Claudio Ranieri’s brand of funeral classics football, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
At the very least, Fulham needed a new left-back, right-back, centre-back, right winger and a striker to be able to field a side in the first game of the Premier League season. But that would still have required tenuous squad members from the Championship stepping up to play regularly in the top flight.
Then the money started flying out.
Jean Michael Seri, once heralded as Xavi’s replacement at Barcelona, and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, who only weeks earlier had been competing in the Europa League final with Marseille, set Fulham back roughly £50m, according to transfermarkt.
That nearly half of Fulham’s entire summer outlay was spent on two midfielders- bolstering by far the strongest part of Jokanovic’s squad- was lost, or rather ignored, amongst the jubilation of being back in the Premier League and spending with the big boys once again.
Throw in the £18m fee Fulham paid Newcastle to make Mitrovic’s loan move permanent and you’re left with roughly £35m to sign a left-back, right-back, centre-back and a right winger- all of whom needed to be Premier League quality- not to mention another five or six squad players to fill the void left by the departing loanees.
The fact that Fulham ended up with three first-choice goalkeepers was the icing on the cake during a shambles of a transfer window which, ultimately, set the tone for the season.
But, in reality, Fulham would have had to spend far more than £100m to stand any chance of staying in the Premier League, and that wasn’t an option with Financial Fair Play. The worry is, Fulham clearly didn’t learn from their short-term approach.
The Whites will drop down to the Championship with six players returning to their parent club, as was the case last season, and a complete rebuild necessary just to get a team out. Déjà vu.
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