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Berbatov, Kara, Riether? Just who is Fulham's player of the season?
At the time of writing, Fulham sit comfortable in 10th position and ought to be very pleased with their campaign. Having made a number of new signings, manager ‘Big’ Martin Jol should be satisfied with their season. They have had a number of great performers, with lanky Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov being the first name that pops into my head. But German full-back Sascha Riether and Greek midfield terrier Giorgos Karagounis have also had great first seasons at the club.
Let’s start with the Bulgarian. A deadline day transfer for a measly £4m from Manchester United, he has certainly lived up to his billing as a regular goalscorer, leading to bigger teams – namely Tottenham and Arsenal – left scratching their heads as to why they didn’t try to sign him. Berbatov is 32 years old, but when you don’t run around very much age doesn’t really matter, and he clearly hasn’t lost his eye for a goal, netting 13 league goals this season. His beautifully crisp and technically glorious volley at home to Stoke was a particular highlight, reinforcing his status as one of the most graceful player in the league.
Fulham’s right-back, Sascha Riether, on a season-long loan from relegated FC Koln in Germany, has been a superb temporary acquisition for the Cottagers. Accomplished defending has gone hand-in-hand with effective attacking prowess, and his remarkable consistency is highlighted by the fact that he has started 29 league games for Fulham this season. He has instantly become a fan favourite and has stated that he would love to make a permanent switch to West London.
The Greek midfield bulldog Giorgos Karagounis is 36 years old, but what he may lack in pace and agility he makes up for in sheer doggedness, determination and commitment. Incredibly, this man was a free signing from Panathinaikos, but he has quickly bedded into the heart of this Fulham line-up and epitomises the effort that Martin Jol loves his players to put into every game. He scored his first goal for the club in an FA Cup match against Blackpool, with a stunning 25 yard volley - and the Fulham faithful truly appreciate his work rate and guts on the football pitch.
The fact that these men cost a total of £4m to bring in is a testament to Martin Jol and the Fulham scouts’ know-how in the transfer market; they have ensured a comfortable season for Fulham, reinforcing their place as one of the top sides in the country. Berbatov is the star-man on paper: but the German and the Greek have both had excellent first seasons and deserve praise.
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