This is going to be my best guess about which players Fulham are going to let go. Keep in mind, we don't know what the player contracts are. We don't know who has a relegation clause. We don't know what kind of offers Fulham will receive for them.
Let's start with players out of contract and/or returning to their parent clubs.
Sidwell is out of contract. After scoring eight goals this year, there will be interest from other Premier League clubs. I can't think of any reason why he'd agree to sign with a Championship club. The team had an opportunity to give a two year deal earlier in the season. Because it didn't get done, he's likely to leave. Personally, I don't mind it. Steve is a hard worker and a loyal player. He respected the fans, and appeared to be good with the young players. However, at his age he doesn't have much of a future left. Even if you come right back up, he's unlikely to be much more than a spare part by the time you come back to the league.
John Arne Riise
He's out of contract, and I don't think Fulham will have any intention of re-signing him. I'm not sure what the future holds for him, as I don't think another Premier League club would have any interest. Perhaps he goes back to Norway?
Karagounis is older than I am. As long as their are footballers older than me, I can't feel too old. I actually wouldn't mind him staying around. He'd probably be a good mentor to our younger players. As long as he isn't taking away someone's playing time, I see no harm in keeping him. That being said, he may want to retire or return to Greece after the World Cup. He's unlikely to feature in the future, and his wage demands may be high. Since he's out of contract, it makes sense to just let him go.
Duff has had a lot of great moments for Fulham. Unfortunately none of them were this year. He's making noise about wanting to join a league like MLS, but as a person who watches a lot of that league, I'd have to say he probably couldn't even cut it there. Going back to Ireland seems like his best opportunity.
Can we just pretend he never happened?
I liked what I saw of him, and think he could be a useful player in a double pivot or a three man midfield. There's almost zero chance that Fulham exercise any purchase agreement on his loan though.
He's proven he's healthy again and he's out of contract. I'm sure a player like him could find a team somewhere ready to take a gamble. I wouldn't mind him back, but I don't think it's likely.
I'm a really big fan of Holtby. I wish that we had stayed up and tried to get him on a permanent deal. But he'll go back to Tottenham and try to impress another new manager. If he can't catch on there, I can think of quite a few Premier League clubs who'd love to have him. And if he so desires, Germany will always be an option.
I'd love him to stay. I thought he was the best center back Fulham used all year. I thought he played right back well when asked to do it. But he played well enough that the bottom half of the table will probably be offering him a contract. And that's doesn't even take into account the options he'll have back in the Netherlands.
As far as I can tell, those are all the players out of contract or returning to their parent club. The next set of players will need to be moved on either by sale, or buyout.
We've already discussed his desire to leave. The problem is that he's going to be on a big wage (over £20K/week) and he's signed through 2017. He's now lost his starting job at two straight clubs (AS Roma first). No one is likely to come in with a big offer for him. There's no relegation clause in his contract, so I'm not sure how you resolve it. Perhaps you give him £3-4M just to walk away. I'm fairly confident he won't be on the team next year, I just don't know how it will happen.
How far a player can drop in just a year. He was my defender of the year last season, and I was fairly excited when he signed a two year deal at the beginning of this one. But he was very bad this year. When he got forward he didn't seem to be as dangerous as last year and he almost always chose the wrong times to do it. He was often caught out of position. By the end of the year he was struggling with fitness and being beat out by other players. The only question is, can Fulham find somewhere to move him to or are thy stuck with him?
It pains me to say this about such a faithful servant, but I think he needs to go. He probably still has enough in the tank for another Premier League season, and I think he'd do fine in the Championship. However, he's expensive (rumored to be on £60K/week). He also has the problem of being most comfortable as the left side of the center back pair. Unfortunately that's where Dan Burn and Fernando Amorebieta play. There's simply a lot of downside to keeping him around, and very little upside. I think it's time to start a new chapter with a new captain.
He seems like a player that is ready to go. Fulham have already rejected offers from clubs in Italy for his service, so there is demand. He's on quite a high wage for a player of his stature, so moving him out would be the financially sound move as well. He's the first of the leaving players that might actually command a decent transfer fee. I've always thought he was talented, I'm just not sure he's ever been used in the correct position. I hope he goes on to have a good long career with whomever he lands with.
The most Martin Jol of all Martin Jol signings. Fulham chased him for years. Finally got him when he was free, and then handed him a contract in excess of £35K/week. Then we discover he just isn't that great and hardly seem him play. I'm sure he could play in the Championship. Dickson Etuhu has played their with Blackburn. But if you can find a way to let him go, you have to do it.
I still don't think Ruiz has ever gotten a really fair shake at Fulham. His game does have a lot of flaws. He's not strong. He doesn't work particularly hard on defense. He doesn't have a lot of pace. But he has great skill on the ball, he's a great passer, he has a wonderful shot, and is underrated in the air. He's not a versatile player though. Even though he's played a lot of positions at Fulham, he's only really good at being a CAM or a second striker (depending on the formation). His contract is up after next season, and I don't think you'll ever see him in a Fulham kit again. If he has a good World Cup, Fulham might have the opportunity to sell him and recoup something (he'd be a great fit in MLS). If not, there will be teams in the Netherlands and Spain willing to take him on a one year loan.
Of all the players I'm listing, this he's the one I want to hold on to most. Unfortunately, I just don't see it happening. He's going to have a World Cup to show off. He had a pretty good season. Their are plenty of teams left in the Premier League who would make an offer on him. And that doesn't even factor in all the German clubs. I would love to see hims stay and destroy the fullbacks in the Championship, I just don't think it will happen.
Mitroglou presents some challenges for me. I don't think Fulham are going to be willing to just give him away. I also don't think he's going to be playing in the Championship. My guess is that Fulham figure out somewhere to loan him for next season. If he has a good World Cup and a successful loan spell, you have an asset you can sell and at least recoup some of the initial investment. In a best case scenario, the club goes into 2015/16 rejoining the Premier League and having Mitroglou ready to rejoin the side.
So those are the players I expect to go and why. Later this week we'll discuss the players I expect to stay. Then we'll touch on options you could bring in and what the squad next year might look like. What say you? Did I leave out anyone who's sure to go? Did I list someone you think will stick around?