There is just over a month until Fulham’s Premier League opener with Liverpool on August 6 and, for head coach Marco Silva, preparations are not where they should be.
It is understood he is unhappy with the way the transfer window has been going so far, with one deal almost down the line, and he has conveyed those frustrations to the club’s hierarchy.
Silva is said to be upset at returning to pre-season on June 29 to work with 10 outfield players, having given the board goals to pursue at the end of last season. He is believed to be expecting up to 10 new faces this summer.
Four other players – Josh Onomah, Anthony Knockaert, Ivan Cavaleiro and Terence Kongolo – are not training with the squad. It is understood that Silva wants to keep them separate from the group as he does not see them as part of his Premier League plans. The club are known to be open to offers for three of the four: Onomah, Cavaleiro and Knockaert.
There are more expected to return from vacation to bolster those numbers in the coming days, with five more senior players expected next week.
Fulham have been pursuing a number of goals and, although they have yet to officially welcome a new face at Craven Cottage, that is set to change imminently, with the signing of Joao Palhinha from Sporting Lisbon for £20m. euros (£17.2 million). He was due to travel to London on Saturday for a medical examination. Palhinha, 26, is a Portugal international with Champions League experience and looks like a major asset.
But there has also been frustration surrounding this transfer. Silva thought he persuaded Palhinha to sign three weeks ago, but the deal was stalled this week due to a disagreement between the agents working on it.
Fulham widened their net and tried to aim high and sign players who could move the dial for the club next season. They chased targets including Juventus left-back Luca Pellegrini and AC Milan centre-half Alessio Romagnoli, and inquired about Manchester United centre-half Eric Bailly.
Last season’s Championship winners saw two offers rejected by Wolfsburg for right-back Kevin Mbabu after finding Liverpool’s asking price for Neco Williams prohibitive. They are awaiting news of Manchester United attacking midfielder Andreas Pereira after he tabled a bid worth £8.6m, rising to £11m, as they are also in talks to sign Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
The club are known to be working hard to secure deals on a number of fronts as quickly as possible and are not the only Premier League club to have confirmed a new signing this summer. Brentford are yet to confirm the senior signing and neither are Wolves, Manchester United, Chelsea and Leicester City.
But things seem to be accelerating elsewhere. Newly promoted Nottingham Forest have made two new additions, Taiwo Awoniyi and Dean Henderson, this week and are close to three more. Bournemouth have added two to their squad – Joe Rothwell and Ryan Fredericks on free transfers. Last year’s strugglers Leeds United made three new additions and Everton a new signing, while Southampton added three new players.
Fulham have also been chasing Shakhtar Donetsk winger Manor Solomon for some time. However, that deal is now in the balance.
Fulham and Shakhtar were close to agreeing a €7m (£6m) fee for the player keen on the move, but the transfer has not been fully finalised. The delay is believed to have been linked to the uncertainty surrounding players based in Ukraine and most recently a FIFA decision, issued on June 21, which would extend the right of foreign players based in Ukraine to suspend their contracts until June 2023. .
FIFA first announced temporary changes to employment rules in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the aim of allowing players based in Ukraine and Russia to register with FIFA. another club outside of a registration window. It is these rules which have been extended for a further year, with the crucial additional stipulation that the clubs concerned had until June 30, 2022 to find mutual agreements with foreign players before they can suspend their contracts. This essentially meant Shakhtar had to reach a deal by June 30 or else Solomon, an Israel international, could leave for a season for free.
Last month, Shakhtar CEO Sergei Palkin said Athleticism this decision meant that: “The power to decide on the suspension of contracts is now in the hands of the players’ agents. This does not reflect the club’s intention to save players and investments. We now have nine days to agree with our players whether they should be sold or loaned to foreign clubs, which is simply impossible.
With the deal with Shakhtar not fully signed, negotiations with Fulham over Solomon were affected by the move. Some members of the Ukrainian club felt that the negotiations had been completely ruined at some point last week.
Following the ruling, Shakhtar had feared that previous offers or deals for players would be withdrawn by rival clubs who could use FIFA’s ruling to sign players on free loan deals. Fulham declined to comment when asked if they were exploring the possibility of a loan deal for Solomon instead.
Solomon’s current contract runs until December 2023, and such a deal would have brought the midfielder into the final six months of his contract. It could also mean that Shakhtar would not receive a short-term honorarium.
Silva remains frustrated and it is known that he had wanted to wrap up Fulham’s business as soon as possible. After Fulham’s loss to Sheffield United on the final day, he said: “In my opinion, this is a really important moment for this football club next season. We should be proud of what we have achieved this season, but it also gives us more responsibility for next season. We have already started, but we start again from tomorrow. It is a difficult job for us, for me, for my staff to prepare and give a plan to our board of directors and they have to work on it.
Fulham were promoted to second-tier champions on April 19, a fresh start for the club which in recent years have progressed via the play-offs. Fulham made a series of late transfers during their last Premier League spell, including Joachim Andersen and Tosin Adarabioyo, and while they had a transformative impact, they finally arrived after a poor start to the campaign.
Silva and Director of Football Operations Tony Khan have both spoken of the value of having more time than ever to shape the Fulham squad, and the advantage it could give. The fear will now be that they lose this advantage.
(Top photo: Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)