The £17m goal-machine striker who could take Premier League by storm with Fulham or Everton
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With Aleksandr Mitrović slowly wearing Fulham down as he pursues a lucrative move to Saudi Pro League side Al-Hilal, the Cottagers have begrudgingly hit the transfer market in search of a striker to replace the Serbian who has provided most of the west London club’s goals over the past few seasons.
Reports in the last couple of days suggest that Fulham may enter the race for much sought-after Arsenal forward Folarin Balogun, but he could cost £50m (nearly twice the price Mitrović is likely to fetch) and may well get more attractive offers from France or Italy. If that falls through, they may well be back to the drawing board. Happily, there is a possible solution for them – Werder Bremen’s Niclas Füllkrug.
In truth, this is a transfer quite a few clubs should be contemplating over the final two weeks of the transfer window. The 30-year-old German striker, a late bloomer who has hit 35 goals over the last two campaigns for Bremen, has one year left on his contract and negotiations over an extensions have been fraught.
Reports in Germany have suggested that he could sign a deal until 2026 with a release clause, while there have been suggestions that his club could be willing to cash in to the tune of €20m (£17m) – not cheap for a striker entering his thirties, but pretty great value for a striker who has proven his ability to go at 15 goals a season in the Bundesliga.
He’s also demonstrated his mettle at international level, making his senior debut for Germany last year at the age of 29 and scoring seven goals in nine games since - including two at the World Cup against Spain and Costa Rica. His pedigree may not have shown as early for him as it does for many first-rate players, but it seems pretty unquestionable now.
Standing at 6’2” and with plenty of physical presence, he’s also blessed with quick feet and a good touch, very decent dribbling skills and strong finishing – and he’s pretty selfless for a traditional number nine, always looking for passes in the box and registering 11 assists to go with those 35 goals. He can provide a lot of the same combination of power, guile and goalscoring knowhow that the wantaway Mitrović can, and could even turn Fulham a profit. On the face of it, it’s a pretty decent deal.
Fulham do currently have Carlos Vinícius and Raúl Jiménez on the books but the former has struggled to make his mark in the Premier League with few goals and poor underlying statistics, while the former Wolves forward has never been the same since suffering that horrible head injury a couple of years ago. It isn’t the most convincing set of attacking options once you take the Serbian out of the equation.
Not that Fulham are the only team in the capital direly in need of a striker as the window winds down. West Ham United’s only current options up front are Michail Antonio and Danny Ings, both of whom appear to be past their prime (and Divin Mubama, a youngster so green that he doesn’t even have a profile page on the club website). With Jarrod Bowen the only reliable source of goals further down the field, a number nine who can make double digits would be precisely what the doctor ordered.
Up on Merseyside meanwhile, Everton also look pretty desperate for some goals and had been linked with Füllkrug back in January, although clearly that came to nothing. They have a limited budget and the worst scoring record in the division over the past year, and play increasingly direct football under Sean Dyche – a big but gifted and proven forward seems perfect. There are at least three clubs in the Premier League who could desperately used a player of the big German’s profile, and he could easily become an essential signing for any of them.
Füllkrug is also used to play as the central man in a wide front three thanks to the tactics used at Bremen, which means he should slot pretty straightforwardly into any of those three sides, and he’s experienced enough to no need too much time to adjust. The famed “rigours of the Premier League” will not be a problem for a big man who’s been knocking Bundesliga centre-backs around for over a decade.
He’s also started the new season where he left off, scoring a penalty in a surprise 3-2 defeat to Viktoria Köln in the first round of the DFB-Pokal. His best scoring stats may not run past more than the last two seasons, but much of the is explained by a torrid time with injuries through his mid-to-late twenties. Since working his way back to full fitness, he has been both excellent and extremely consistent. For a mid-table Premier League time, he looks about as safe a bet as you could possibly get, especially at such a relatively friendly price point.
A big round peg for some glaring round holes then, and almost certainly available for the right fee and a kind word. Füllkrug is a fine player who would likely take to life in the Premier League pretty well – and the sporting directors of the division should be all over him.