There is just over a month to go until Fulham’s first Premier League match with Liverpool on August 6 and, for head coach Marco Silva, preparations are not where they should be.
He is understood to be unhappy with the way the transfer window is playing out so far – with only one deal, but over the line – and has passed those frustrations on to the club’s hierarchy.
Silva is said to be upset that he returned to preseason on June 29 to work with 10 outfield players, having given the board goals to follow at the end of last season. It is believed that he expects up to 10 new faces this summer.
Four other players — Josh Onomah, Anthony Knockaert, Ivan Cavaleiro and Terence Kongolo — are not training with the team. Silva is understood to want to keep them separate from the group as he does not see them as part of his Premier League plans. The club is known to be open to offers for three of the four: Onomah, Cavaleiro and Knockaert.
There are others set to return from vacation to bolster those numbers in the coming days, with five more senior players set to return next week.
Fulham have been chasing a number of goals and while they have yet to officially welcome a new face at Craven Cottage, that will change imminently, with the signing of Joao Palhinha from Sporting Lisbon for €20m (€17. £2 million). He was due to be in London on Saturday for a medical. Palhinha, 26, is a Portugal international with Champions League experience and appears to be a great addition.
But there has also been frustration surrounding this transfer. Silva thought he had persuaded Palhinha to sign three weeks ago, but the deal was delayed this week due to a disagreement between the agents working on it.
Fulham have thrown their net wide and have tried to aim high and sign players who could move the dial for the club next season. They have been chasing targets including left-back Luca Pellegrini at Juventus and central midfielder Alessio Romagnoli at AC Milan, and have made inquiries about Manchester United central midfielder Eric Bailly.
Last season’s Championship winners had two offers turned down by Wolfsburg for right-back Kevin Mbabu after finding Liverpool’s asking price for Neco Williams prohibitive. They are awaiting news from Manchester United attacking midfielder Andreas Pereira after submitting a bid worth £8.6m, which rises to £11m, while they are also in talks to sign Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno. .
The club are known to be working hard to secure deals on various 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 senior signings and neither have Wolves, Manchester United, Chelsea and Leicester City.
But things seem to be looking up elsewhere. Newly promoted Nottingham Forest have made two new additions, Taiwo Awoniyi and Dean Henderson, this week and are close to another three. Bournemouth have added two to their squad: Joe Rothwell and Ryan Fredericks on free transfers. Last year’s strugglers Leeds United have made three new additions and Everton one new signing, while Southampton have added three new players.
Fulham have also been chasing Shakhtar Donetsk winger Manor Solomon for some time. However, that deal is now up for grabs.
Fulham and Shakhtar came close to agreeing a €7m (£6m) fee, with the player interested in the move, but the transfer was not fully finalized. The delay is believed to have been related to the uncertainty surrounding Ukraine-based players and, later, a FIFA ruling, issued on June 21, that would extend the right of Ukraine-based foreign players to suspend their contracts until June 2023.
FIFA first announced temporary changes to employment rules in March following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in a move designed to allow players based in Ukraine and Russia to sign up for another club outside of a registration window. It was these rules that were extended for a further year, with the crucial additional stipulation that the affected clubs had until June 30, 2022 to find mutual agreements with foreign players before they could suspend their contracts. Basically, this meant that Shakhtar needed to close a deal before June 30, otherwise Solomon, an Israel international, could go free for a season.
Last month, Shakhtar CEO Sergei Palkin said the athletic This ruling meant that: “The power to decide on the suspension of contracts is now in the hands of the players’ agents. It does not reflect the club’s intention to save players and investments. Now we basically have nine days to agree with our players their sale or loan to foreign clubs, which is simply impossible.
With the deal with Shakhtar not fully signed, negotiations with Fulham over the Solomon were affected by this ruling. Negotiations were considered by some at the Ukrainian club to have completely gone sour at one point last week.
Following the ruling, Shakhtar feared that rival clubs would withdraw previous offers or deals for players who could use FIFA’s ruling to sign players on free loan deals. Fulham declined to comment when asked if they explored the possibility of a loan deal for Solomon instead.
Solomon’s current contract runs through December 2023, and such a deal would have taken the midfielder to the final six months of his deal. It could also mean that Shakhtar would not receive a share in the short term.
Silva is still frustrated and it is known that he wanted to close the Fulham deal as soon as possible. After Fulham’s last-day loss to Sheffield United, he said: “In my opinion, it’s a really important moment for this football club next season. We have to be proud of what we did this season, but it also gives us more responsibility for next season. We have already started, but we start again from tomorrow. It is hard work for us, for me, for my staff to prepare and give a plan for our meeting and they have to work on it.”
Fulham were promoted as champions from the second division on April 19, a new start for the club that in recent years have risen through the play-offs. Fulham made a number of late transfers during their last spell in the Premier League, including Joachim Andersen and Tosin Adarabioyo, and while they made a transformational impact, they finally arrived after a poor start to the campaign.
Both Silva and director of football operations Tony Khan spoke about the value of having more time than ever to mold the Fulham squad and the advantage that could bring. The fear now will be that they are losing that advantage.
(Top photo: Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)