The rumors surrounding Moussa Dembélé have been unavoidable in recent weeks, and reports increasingly suggest he will be leaving Craven Cottage at some point sooner than anyone at Fulham would like. Dembélé has clearly expressed his desire to go, and with the player entering the last six months of his contract Fulham must sell now or risk losing him for next to nothing this summer.
The Guardian yesterday indicated Fulham are close to agreeing a £5 million deal with Tottenham. While this does not represent the full value Fulham may have received for Dembélé if his contract were not expiring, such a sum is vastly preferable to the rumored £300,000 Fulham would receive via tribunal with a transfer to Monaco this summer. While manager Slavisa Jokanovic has expressed his desire to keep the promising young striker, the reality is that Fulham have few options but to allow the former PSG academy player to leave.
The Financial Fair Play transfer embargo has made clear the economic realities of life in the Championship and if we continue to pretend that money is no issue, we'll find ourselves in a perpetual state of embargo. The move makes obvious financial sense, and we should not pretend as though Dembélé, good as he is, is irreplaceable. Effective use of the loan market should allow the club to enlist the necessary attacking support.
It is true that Fulham currently find themselves on the brink of a relegation scrap, but there is far too much talent at the Cottage for this to be a season-long crisis. The two things Fulham have so clearly lacked since October are leadership and stability. With both elements returned to the club in the form of Jokanovic, Fulham should see performances improve in kind.
The club is far too dependent on Ross McCormack’s offensive production and a £5 million injection could add some desperately needed potency and depth to the attack in the next window. (We should forget right now any possibility of selling McCormack before the summer – Ross may have his chance to play in the Premier League should a club come calling, but not at the risk of jeopardizing Fulham’s Championship survival). Dembélé has a bright future but, without commitment to and belief in his current club, that future cannot lie with Fulham. Facing a "sell now or get nothing in the summer" scenario, Fulham have an opportunity to begin building a side to challenge for promotion next season. Bring in a striker on loan and - for the sake of the club - grant Moussa Dembélé his wish.