Mohamed Al Fayed has called an end to his 16 year reign at Fulham Football Club, during which he took Fulham from the third tier of English football to becoming a respected Premier League outfit.
Al Fayed was very popular amongst fans – over 1000 supporters have signed a petition to rename the Riverside stand after him – having completely reformed the West London club both on and off the pitch.
The man now in charge is Pakistan-born Shahid Kahn. According to Forbes magazine, Kahn is worth over $1.9 billion – which he made selling car-parts in the United States.
One position often under danger when a new owner comes in is the manager, but Kahn, also the owner of American NFL side Jacksonville Jaguars, has insisted that he has full confidence in Martin Jol and he won’t be completely reforming the club from top to bottom, “Martin has a great reputation. I look forward to meeting him and support and move him forwards… There is a plan that has been laid out and I’m here to support that plan.”
In the same interview, Kahn said that Jol and chief executive Alastair Mackintosh will make the final decisions regarding transfers, “you want to empower people and give them the resources to do their jobs and then they are accountable.”
He also stated that Fulham will not make the same mistakes as clubs in the past, such as QPR last season, where they spent huge amounts of money unwisely. So it looks unlikely that Fulham will be splashing ridiculous sums of cash this summer.
It’s unclear how much Jol will be given, as the pair are yet to discuss it, but Kahn is expected to grant the Dutchman money to spend this transfer window, he is due to fly out to Costa Rica this weekend (where the team is currently touring) to hold talks with Jol.
Fulham have a decent squad to compete with next season, and have already signed their number one target this summer in Maarten Skelenburg.
If Kahn does grant them with a bit of cash then where should they spend it and on whom should it be spent? They’re rumoured to be interested in Nancy player Yohan Mollo, the wing is an important position to strengthen because of the deterioration of Damien Duff’s pace, the injury problems Ashkan Dejagah faced last season and the general lack of players in that position.
Mollo, who was on loan to Saint Etienne last season, would be relatively cheap to buy because Nancy were relegated to Ligue 2 last season. He can play on either wing (or, to a lesser extent, as a second striker), which adds to the allure.
Another option for the wing is Stewart Downing, who hasn’t particularly enjoyed his time at Anfield and might benefit from a move to a smaller club like Fulham, and Fulham could certainly benefit from the speedy 28 year-old.
Centre midfield has been an area that the club has had problems with since Dembele, Etuhu and Murphy all left They’ll need to strengthen here and they’ll need to do it quickly because there’s a lot of midfielders of the right quality and price, such as Younes Belhanda and Victor Wanyama, who have already moved elsewhere.
There’s also been talk of Fulham lining up a move for a striker because, with Berbatov and Ruiz up top, Fulham lack pace and physicality in this position. Christian Benteke is considered by some to be a reasonable target for Fulham, and though he provides them with muscle and brute force, he’s not particularly fast and may as well stay at Aston Villa, rather than move to a similarly positioned club in terms of quality.
Darren Bent would be a more realistic signing, he wants out of Villa and would provide the pace Fulham need as well as taking some of the weight off of Berbatov’s back to score all of goals they need.
Mr. Kahn has claimed he is not going to get rid of Craven Cottage and has instead set his sights on developing the stadium as well as the playing staff, he told Talksport “if we are to build a long-term future that is sustainable, we need to invest in the facilities and the people” and called Craven Cottage a ‘shrine’ after attending a league match there in 2007.
The businessman is saying all the right things, but could he, like some American owners coming into the Premier League before him, be in it for the profit? He did buy the club at a relatively cheap price after all.
Buying Fulham gives him real estate, and if he goes back on his promise to develop Craven Cottage, one of the most sought-after residential development sites in London, he could sell it on for £180 million.
That’s a worst-case scenario and is unlikely, however he could still be in it purely for money, If he invests in players then the club will earn more television money from the Premier League.
He snapped up Fulham relatively cheaply, between £150m and £200m, and he bought Jacksonville Jaguars for a very low price and many financial experts believe the acquisition of the Jaguars is an investment.
Kahn could use Fulham to borrow money, this is what American owners in the Premier League have done before him.
Tom Hicks and George Gilett did this at Liverpool, it backfired spectacular and they ended up losing their sporting empire. The Glazers, who still own Manchester United, have done this and have gained a lot of success from it, but it hasn’t proved popular with the fans. If this is what Shahid Kahn does then it won’t go down well with Fulham fans, only time will tell whether this is the case.