The Bizarre And Curious Case Of Fulham Striker Kostas Mitroglou
With Fulham starting life in the Championship slowly, following their relegation from the English Premier League, it is hard to see the finger pointing and recriminations at the London club slowing down anytime soon.
At the heart of the inquisition you will find the name of Greece striker Kostas Mitroglou, who signed from Olympiacos in January for a fee of £12 million and became Fulham’s most expensive ever player.
Mitroglou arrived in England in outstanding form for both club and country, famously becoming the first Greek player to score a hat-trick in the UEFA Champions League, as Olympiacos beat Anderlecht 3-0 on their way to the knockout stages.
His performance that day announced the arrival of a potential future star of European football and his subsequent transfer to Fulham was heralded as a turning point in the club’s difficult season, as well as his own career.
Yet the striker would go on to make just three league appearances as he battled with injury and fitness concerns. The man in charge when he arrived at Fulham – Rene Meulensteen – was then sacked and replaced by Felix Magath.
Under the German, Mitroglou’s situation became increasingly unclear. According to Magath the former Olympiacos man was at various points either genuinely injured or too unfit to even make the substitute’s bench – the player’s exact situation was never clarified.
Initially the Fulham manager defended Mitroglou’s lack of involvement by describing him as a long-term investment before contradicting himself in August, saying it was “totally the wrong decision” to sign the player in January.
It is clear that Magath’s comments saw him distancing himself from the transfer, and in turn the Greece striker has recently come out saying he has no respect for his club boss.
The situation worsened in the build-up to the 2014 World Cup, where Mitroglou was expected to lead the Greek attack, but he struggled to regain fitness and was only cleared to travel to Brazil on the eve of the tournament.
It still remains unclear as to who is to blame for the disastrous results of Mitroglou’s move to Fulham. Whilst the player initially seemed to lack the physical conditioning for the rigors of the English Premier League, why was it that he was able to recover so quickly post-season and make three appearances for his country at the World Cup?
Mitroglou certainly wasn’t helped by the timing of his move and the sacking of Meulensteen soon after the transfer – Magath was Fulham’s third manager within the same season. Both of those decisions by the club smacked of desperation and the environment was not a healthy one for the player.
And while Greece adapted to Mitroglou’s lack of form and fitness at the World Cup as they escaped from their group, Fulham are still struggling to deal with an awkward situation.
Mitroglou remains on the books of the club despite being out of favour with Magath and it appears his reported £40,000-a-week wages are a luxury that cannot be afforded in the Championship.
The problem for Fulham is that no suitor has been found for the 26-year-old, despite interest from clubs in Italy, Turkey, Spain and France.
A solution has been difficult to come by, with the player himself seemingly unwilling to move to Turkey, despite at least one club offering to take the striker off Fulham’s hands permanently. That is a solution that the English side clearly prefers, with loan offers from the likes of St. Etienne and even Olympiacos rejected.
Adding to the complexity of the situation is the mystery surrounding Mitroglou’s fitness. The types of clubs that can afford his wages won’t be willing to risk money on a player who fits the ‘damaged goods’ cliché.
The current situation does nothing for player, club or country, and Mitroglou now finds himself in a sort of transfer No Man’s Land.
His talent as a footballer remains undoubted, however, and there were signs that the player was regaining sharpness as he made a couple of cameo appearances for Greece at the World Cup.
And whilst that won’t be enough to convince clubs to meet Fulham’s asking price, perhaps the best way forward would be for the Cottagers to help rehabilitate the player and turn him into the long-term investment that Magath once spoke about.