January 31, 2014. It was transfer deadline day and Fulham fans were on edge. The Whites were mired in the relegation zone after enduring a dreadful season. New manager Rene Meulensteen, installed in late October after Martin Jol was sacked, had already made a number of signings. Ryan Tunnicliffe, Larnell Cole, and John Heitinga had all been signed permanently; Lewis Holtby and William Kvist had been brought in on loan.
But one more massive deal was in the works. And on deadline day, Fulham announced the 12 million pound signing of former Olympiacos striker Kostas Mitroglou.
By all accounts it was an impressive signing. The 12 million pound price tag was daunting, but it appeared Fulham had acquired the services of a world class striker. Mitroglou had scored 17 goals in 19 appearances in 2013/14, a quite brilliant strike rate. Granted, most of those goals had come in the Greek league, but Mitroglou had also bagged a hat trick in the Champions League. The striker also had 8 goals for Greece under his belt and was a mainstay in the national side.
As a result, there was a huge air of excitement around the team after the signing. The Cottagers had struggled for form all season, and they were in desperate need of goals to counteract their leaky defence. But now the Whites had signed a proven international goal scorer, a hulking 6'2 powerhouse of a striker whose nickname was Mitrogoal. We were going to stay up on the back of Mitroglou's goals!
Yet Mitroglou's short time at Fulham could hardly have gone much worse. Fulham were promptly thrashed 3-0 at home to Southampton in the first match after the transfer window closed, bringing many supporters back to reality.
Fitness issues meant Mitroglou failed to feature at all until February 22nd, during the crucial away match against West Bromwich Albion. By that time Rene Meulensteen had been sacked, replaced with the German hardman Felix Magath. It was Magath's first match in charge, and while Mitroglou sat on the bench, Fulham ran out to a dream start. Ashkan Dejagah had put the Whites ahead in the 28th minute, and the score was still 1-0 when Kostas Mitroglou made his much anticipated Fulham debut.
The energetic Hugo Rodallega made way for Mitroglou with 61 minutes gone, and almost instantaneously the tide turned. The hard pressing of Rodallega up front vanished, replaced by Mitroglou's laborious, plodding strides. West Brom poured attack upon attack on our defence, and 4 minutes before full time they made the pressure pay. To throw away the lead for yet another time was sickening. The 12 million pound man had looked anonymous, tired, and very far from fully fit. It was an abysmal debut for Mitroglou.
After being left out of the side for the subsequent loss to Chelsea, Mitroglou was handed his first start in the relegation six pointer against Cardiff City. A win in Wales was vital. But the Whites slumped to a demoralizing 3-1 defeat, with Mitroglou again doing little to convince us of his supposed qualities. The striker was caught offside far too many times, wasted countless opportunities, and again failed to make a true impact when we needed him most. The result left Fulham bottom of the league. The future was looking dim.
Kostas Mitroglou then went on to miss the next seven matches with injury, completely absent from the first team setup. It became clear that the player had some serious injury problems, and questions needed to be asked about how these issues were not addressed when he signed in January.
But there was no time for contemplation when the Whites travelled to the Britannia in early May. Fulham needed to win this match if they were to have any chance of staying up. It quite simply was the match that would define our future. A loss, and we were down.
Regrettably, the Fulham team decided to turn in possibly their worst performance of the season that fateful day. In what can only be described as a listless and uninterested display, the Whites were comprehensively beaten by a well drilled Stoke side. The sight of Mark Hughes slyly smiling on the touchline made the day even worse, as well as the pathetic sight of the unfortunate Dan Burn being left out to dry playing as a fullback. Add that to the plethora of mental decisions by madman Magath.
And to rub salt in the wound, Magath brought on Kostas Mitroglou with 30 minutes to go. It seemed as if he was mocking the club, subbing in the biggest flop in our history on the day we went down. As always, Mitroglou put in an anonymous shift, a shadow of his former self. The final whistle blew and Fulham Football Club were relegated.
In the end, Kostas Mitroglou's stats for Fulham would be laughable if they weren't so depressing. Games played: 3. Goals scored: 0. Transfer fee: 12,000,000 pounds.
To be fair to the striker, those abysmal numbers are not entirely his fault. His spell at Fulham was riddled with injuries, and a player coming back to fitness under the brutal regime of Felix Magath could understandably be in for a tough time.
The real disgrace of the Mitroglou fiasco was the complete mismanagement of the transfer. Why would a club spend upwards of ten million pounds on a player who was not fully fit, and who they knew would have disastrous injury problems? The transfer exemplified how Fulham, once a model for a professional club, has descended into an organisation riddled with amateur management mistakes.
Kostas Mitroglou will go down as one of the worst transfers in Fulham, and perhaps Premier League, history. 12 million pounds were wasted on a player who never scored a goal for Fulham and could do nothing to save the club from relegation. Do you agree that Mitroglou is the worst signing in Fulham history? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below. COYW!