Football Features

Where are they now? Every player signed by Fulham the summer they outspent Man City

By Ben Green

Published: 17:40, 4 December 2020

Fulham are back in the Premier League but have endured a tough return to the top flight, gaining just seven points from their opening 10 games. 

Despite the start, Fulham may take some heart from the fact they have (so far) avoided the mistakes made by the club when they last tasted promotion to the Premier League.

In the 2018/19 summer window Fulham, under Slavisa Jokanovic, splurged over £100m on new recruits, outspending Manchester United and Manchester City, but that compulsive spree ultimately proved a poisoned chalice as they suffered relegation.

Scott Parker insisted the club would learn from that, following Fulham’s play-off final win over Brentford in August, and they have. Although Fulham added a number of reinforcements to their squad, they were either for a small fee, such as Kenny Tete and Terence Kongolo, or on loan like Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ademola Lookman.

But one question remains. What has happened to the players signed in that 2018/19 summer bonanza?

Joe Bryan

Signed from: Bristol City

Fee: £6m

Current club: Fulham

Initially signed from Bristol City, Bryan endured an Achilles tendon injury at the start of 2018/19 season, but returned to hand autumn appointment Claudio Ranieri, who was described by sporting director Tony Khan as “risk-free” (famous last words), a boost.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out for Bryan in his maiden Premier League campaign, where ‘Trippier had him on toast’, and it has been a similar start to 2020/21. Bryan started Fulham’s opening four league games, all of which ended in defeat, and he has played just two minutes since, losing his spot to Antonee Robinson.

Aleksandar Mitrovic

Signed from: Newcastle

Fee: £22m

Current club: Fulham

Fulham fans have Snapchat to thank for the signing of Mitrovic from Newcastle. That may seem crazy, but for a striker of Mitrovic’s mercurial temperament, it’s almost fitting. After a deal with Anderlecht broke down in January 2018, a Snapchat exchange between the enigmatic striker and Jokanovic sealed the transfer.

“It’s your lucky, day,” Mitrovic texted Jokanovic, “the deal is broken.” And so, the player who was shown a yellow card 22 seconds into his Newcastle debut joined Fulham on loan in 2017/18 and immediately guided them to the first of their two promotions under his watch, with his deal becoming permanent that summer.

And if Fulham fans thought they were getting a drama-free season with Mitrovic leading the line, they would be sorely mistaken. The Serb netted a commendable 11 goals, but also had an on-field argument with Aboubakar Kamara over a penalty, and was later involved in a bust-up with the Frenchman during a team yoga session, of all things.

Namaste? More like namanasty.

On his day Mitrovic is an elite finisher, exemplified by his Championship Golden Boot, but he has so far continued his Premier League struggles with just two goals in 10 games.

Jean Michael Seri

Signed from: Nice

Fee: £25m

Current club: Fulham

This was the big one for Fulham. Courted by Arsenal, linked to PSG, described by Barcelona legend Xavi as having “Barca DNA”, the Cottagers really hit the jackpot with the £18m acquisition of Seri. The Ivorian was, in fact, Barca-bound at one point. The Catalans broke bread with Nice but a deal collapsed at the eleventh hour, leading to club president Josep Maria Bartomeu feeling “embarrassed” over pulling the plug, and left Seri heartbroken. 

Either way Fulham fans weren’t complaining. The elegant playmaker would bring a new dimension to Jokanovic’s side. He had produced 2.3 key passes per 90 minutes in 2017/18 for Nice, the sixth-highest in Ligue 1 of any player. The optimism could not be greater.

Unfortunately for Fulham fans Seri did not live up to his billing. He featured heavily across the campaign, but was unable to harness his inner Xavi. Fans were hoping for Total Football but got Total Failure and he spent this season on loan at Galatasaray. He is still at Fulham but was not even named in their 2020/21 Premier League squad, managing just two League Cup appearances before Fulham were knocked out.

Maxime Le Marchand

Signed from: Nice

Fee: £5m

Current club: Fulham

Signed alongside Seri in a combined deal worth around £30m, Le Marchand was encouraged by Nice manager Patrick Vieira to relocate to London, with the former Arsenal midfielder giving his ringing endorsement of the English capital. But, he was one of the main culprits in Fulham’s woeful defending that season. The club conceded a quite alarming 81 goals, more than any other club, and Le Marchand was at the heart of that ignominy.

He has remained at Fulham in the Championship, but an injury-hit season has reduced him to just three starts. At 31, he doesn’t appear to be part of Parker’s long-term plans in the Premier League, with just two appearances (and two yellow cards) so far.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa

Signed from: Marseille

Fee: £22.3m

Current club: Fulham

From the chastening experience of relegation to a Real Madrid link. It’s safe to say Anguissa has resurrected his career since leaving Craven Cottage. One of nine permanent signings made by Fulham in that ill-fated summer, it was always going to be a tall order getting all those players to harmonise on the pitch.

On paper the Seri-Anguissa midfield pivot looked the stuff of dreams, a Football Manager fantasy come true. But, an injury midway through November curtailed Anguissa’s form and he never really hit the ground running. However, at Villarreal last season, it was a different story, with his performances piquing Real Madrid’s interest. Anguissa remained at Fulham in the end and is now part of their Premier League team, one of the top stars.

Alfie Mawson

Signed from: Swansea

Fee: £15m

Current club: Bristol City (on loan from Fulham)

Signing from a relegated club is always a risk. Sometimes it proves a masterstroke, a la Andrew Robertson, but sometimes it backfires. That said, Mawson looked a safe enough bet. He had, after all, received an England call-up in March 2018 and was linked to some pretty big clubs upon Swansea’s relegation.

Here was a defender refined in the hustle-and-bustle of the Football League, but one with Premier League experience. But, once again, injuries struck and Mawson has never really been able to get a consistent run of games under his belt. He has to wait for another opportunity to, being loaned out to Bristol City where he suffered another long-term injury.

Andre Schurrle

Signed from: Borussia Dortmund

Fee: Loan

Current club: Retired

The World Cup winner joined Fulham to much fanfare and signed an initial two-year loan deal. This was shrewd business. And the incisive winger was a hit from the off in SW6, scoring delectable goals against Cardiff, and of course, that world class Burnley finish, in which he controlled the ball in gravity-defying fashion before launching it into the roof of the net.

Six goals in 18 starts by mid-January offered hope for the business end of the campaign, but then, the ex-Chelsea man was struck by a virus that kept him out of action for the best part of a month, and effectively ended his season. He returned to Germany for treatment and never managed to rediscover his earlier form, eventually leaving the club following their confirmed relegation.

Schurrle joined Spartak Moscow on loan last season, but has since retired from football at the age of 29 following his release from Dortmund.

Calum Chambers

Signed from: Arsenal

Fee: Loan

Current club: Arsenal

One of the few success stories on this list. Fulham may have conceded an absurd amount of goals but Chambers enjoyed a fruitful campaign for the London club. Transitioned from centre-back to defensive midfielder the Arsenal loanee overwhelmingly received the club’s Player of the Season award with 48.4 per cent of the votes – more than three times as many as his nearest challenger.

He remains at Arsenal but has seen his playing hurt by a knee injury, only recently returning to action.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah 

Signed from: Man Utd

Fee: Loan

Current club: Man Utd

It wasn’t quite the same story for Fosu-Mensah, who was expected to build on a fine loan spell at Crystal Palace the previous campaign. With a flawed recruitment plan, managerial turbulence and injury problems, the Dutchman was restricted to just 13 appearances in the capital before returning to Old Trafford in April that season to undergo knee ligament surgery — which he has not long overcome.

Fabri

Signed from: Besiktas

Fee: £5m

Current club: Fulham

Recommended by goalkeeping coach Jose Sambade Carreira, who worked alongside Fabri at Deportivo La Coruna, the Spaniard was expected to come in and take the No. 1 berth between the sticks. However, after starting in the first two games of the season (against Crystal Palace and Spurs) and conceding five goals, he was dropped for another summer recruit: Sergio Rico. He hasn’t played for Fulham since, and suffered relegation from La Liga with Mallorca last season. Bad omen?

Sergio Rico

Signed from: Sevilla

Fee: Loan

Current club: PSG

The one-time Spain international tussled with Fabri and Marcus Bettinelli for the regular slot in goal and he ultimately got the long-term nod. Five clean sheets in 29 Premier League games makes for grim reading, but when you consider the defence in front of him, it is perhaps excusable to an extent. Rico returned to Andalusia at the end of his loan deal and is now playing second fiddle at the Parc des Princes with PSG. No danger of relegation there.

Luciano Vietto

Signed from: Atletico Madrid

Fee: Loan

Current club: Al Hilal

As if they hadn’t bolstered their squad enough, Vietto joined the wellspring of talent being funnelled into Craven Cottage, but he too came up short on initial promise. The Argentine showed flashes of quality but simply couldn’t acclimatise to the demands of the Premier League and left the club with a whimper. He never was going to break into Diego Simeone’s side after failing to convince Fulham of his worth and he left permanently for Sporting CP last summer. But he lasted just one year in Portugal before moving to Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal, aged 27.

January recruits

No, Fulham were not done there. Their spending spree spilled over into January as they desperately tried to avoid the drop. Ryan Babel and Lazar Markovic joined from Besiktas and Liverpool respectively while Havard Nordtveit came in from Hoffenheim on loan.

Despite playing for only half a season, Babel finished third in the club’s Player of the Season vote, with the Dutchman being directly involved in eight goals (scoring five, assisting three) in just 15 starts for the club. Markovic meanwhile featured just once and was released at the end of the season.

And Nordtveit, well, he made five appearances and returned to Hoffenheim at the end of the term, where he remains to this day.