Football Features

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

By Ben Green

Published: 18:20, 3 August 2022

Fulham are back in the Premier League, winning the Championship last season, and they’ll be hoping to fare better this time around.

In each of their past two Premier League campaigns, the Cottagers have suffered relegation, with one season a lot more infamous than the other.

During 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.

This time around, Fulham have been a bit more conservative with their spending, waiting a while before bringing in new players – but there have been five arrivals including Bernd Leno, Kevin Mbabu and Joao Palhinha.

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 was a similar case in 2020/21 where he struggled to recover following a poor start. That continued in the Championship last season, with Bryan playing just 15 times, so don’t expect to see him too much in the Premier League this year.

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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 three 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 goalscoring record, but he is yet to truly convert that to the Premier League.

Jean Michael Seri

Signed from: Nice

Fee: £25m

Current club: Hull City

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 the next two seasons on loan at Galatasaray and Bordeaux. Seri’s Fulham adventure came to an end this summer, as he left for Hull on a free transfer. Ouch

Maxime Le Marchand

Signed from: Nice

Fee: £5m

Current club: Strasbourg

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 remained at Fulham for their Premier League return in 2020/21 but was sent on loan to Royal Antwerp midway through the campaign before eventually leaving on a permanent deal, signing for Strasbourg last summer.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa

Signed from: Marseille

Fee: £22.3m

Current club: Napoli

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 in 2019/20, it was a different story, with his performances piquing Real Madrid’s interest. That move didn’t materialise and he remained at Fulham for their next Premier League adventure, being one of their top stars. But he did not stay following their second relegation, joining Napoli last summer on loan and making that deal permanent during the current transfer window.

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Alfie Mawson

Signed from: Swansea

Fee: £15m

Current club: Free agent

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 was never really able to get a consistent run of games under his belt, leaving the club this summer.

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: Aston Villa

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.

After returning to Arsenal, Chambers’ playing time was once again hurt by a knee injury, and he finally left the club in January joining Aston Villa on a permanent deal, though he now faces competition for his spot in Steven Gerrard’s team.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah 

Signed from: Man Utd

Fee: Loan

Current club: Bayer Leverkusen

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. After overcoming that, Fosu-Mensah left Man Utd for Bayer Leverkusen in January 2021 where he remains but, again, serious injuries have done him in.

Fabri

Signed from: Besiktas

Fee: £5m

Current club: Free agent

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, suffered relegation from La Liga with Mallorca while on loan, and left the Cottagers this summer.

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 warming the benches 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, eventually leaving the club this summer.

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