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How Fulham spent over €100 million and were still relegated with 5 games to spare

Some costly errors in recruitment have led to a dire season for the Cottagers.

Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon (left) appears dejected after the final whistle against Watford.
Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon (left) appears dejected after the final whistle against Watford.
Image: Nigel French

IN FOOTBALL, generally speaking, you can buy success.

Man City, who won the Premier League last year and are in strong contention to repeat the feat this season, have achieved many memorable days essentially by outspending their rivals.

Similarly, in the years when they dominated, Man United were spending more on player transfers and wages than any other English club.

And in the 2000s, when Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea and ploughed unprecedented levels of cash into the club, unprecedented triumphs quickly followed.

Beyond the Premier League, Real Madrid have not won four of the past five Champions League trophies by adopting a frugal approach to transfers.

However, there are occasional exceptions to this rule — Leicester winning the Premier League title in 2016 despite possessing relatively meagre funds in comparison to their rivals is one stark example.

So a degree of intelligence and vision is also required to manage ample finances, as Fulham’s recent dramatic descent highlights.

Ahead of the 2018-19 campaign, the London club spent over £100 million (€117 million) to boost their survival bid and still have been relegated with five more games to play.

By contrast, Wolves, who were also promoted last season and invested with similarly big money, currently sit seventh, and have taken points off Man City, Tottenham and Man United among others.

A large part of the reason for Fulham’s failure can be put down to player recruitment. Including loans, a total of 19 players were brought into the club.

Such heavy spending can create tension, with a number of the players who had worked so hard to gain promotion from the Championship pushed to the sideline once the club had gained entry to the promised land of the English top flight.

The Cottagers easily surrendered in too many games — a goals-against tally of 76, by far the worst in the league, tells its own story.

Fulham invariably looked like a team thrown together at the last minute, which they effectively were.

Of the players signed, Aleksandar Mitrovic, who scored 16 goals, was arguably the only outright success.

After being bought for £15 million, an injury-ridden campaign saw Alfie Mawson make just 13 Premier League appearances — the last of which was in December.

A £25 million signing from Nice, 27-year-old midfielder Jean Michaël Seri arrived with a big reputation and had previously been linked with Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool, but the Ivory Coast international struggled to live up to the hype.

29-year-old centre-back Maxime Le Marchand, another player bought from Nice for a fee believed to be around £12 million, simply hasn’t worked out.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, the Cameroon international joining from Marseille for a reported €30 million, has had minimal impact in the 11 games he started.

Loan players such as World Cup winner André Schürrle, Man United youngster Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico have had similarly little influence.

And having gone big in the summer, the only two significant January signings — Liverpool outcast Lazar Marković and Ryan Babel from Besiktas — hardly looked like players capable of reversing the club’s dire fortunes.

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To exacerbate matters, Ryan Sessegnon, last year’s Championship Player of the Season and the first individual from the second tier to be nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award, started just 21 games since this campaign’s outset and was regularly substituted. With just a year left on his contract, it seems unlikely that Fulham will keep hold of the talented 18-year-old — Tottenham and Man United are among the clubs who have been linked with a move for the star.

Another standout player from last season, Tom Cairney, also tended to be in and out of the first XI, often failing to complete games he started.

In total Fulham now have just 17 points, having registered four wins, five draws and 24 losses. They are destined to be remembered as one of the worst Premier League teams ever and will serve as an abject lesson in how promoted clubs should not go about their business.

Similarly, to the QPR side that went down in 2015, a number of expensive flops have proved more costly than they bargained for.

Unsurprisingly, given the numerous mistakes that were made by people running the club, chairman Shahid Khan issued an apology to fans after their fate was sealed following a humbling 4-1 defeat by Watford earlier this week.

Upcoming Fixtures (all games 3pm unless stated otherwise)

Today

Southampton v Liverpool (8pm)

Saturday 

Bournemouth v Burnley
Huddersfield v Leicester City
Newcastle v Crystal Palace

Man City v Brighton (5.30pm – FA Cup) 

Sunday

Everton v Arsenal (2.05pm)

Watford v Wolves (4pm – FA Cup)

Monday

Chelsea v West Ham (8pm)

Gavan Casey and Ryan Bailey are joined by Bernard Jackman to look back on a thrilling weekend of European rugby on the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly:


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Paul Fennessy

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