Friday, April 13, 2012

The Dempsey Dilemma

Clint Dempsey is having another fantastic – and well-documented – season for Fulham. In fact, his conspicuous excellence for three successive managers in concert with a slowly expiring contact (June 2013) mean England's most scurrilous have started to chirrup about a potential move to a “bigger” club.

Is he good enough? Can he deliver in the Champions League?

In all honesty, it's unlikely to matter.

The simple fact is that Clint Dempsey may move on from Fulham, but it is hardly likely to be for a significant fee. He is caught in a quandary where his age (29) and skill-set (floating attacker) make him cute to suitors – the quote-unquote “bigger” clubs – but not that attractive.

That said, not 12-15 million attractive, which is a sum nearing that for which Fulham are likely to ask.

The Whites will have to ask for that significant price for many reasons. Because he's been their most potent attacking threat in nearly half a century and debatably their best player (not wash-up) since Johnny Haynes. Dempsey, rapping an' all, is one of – if not the – most marketable Fulham players and continues a great recent Fulham tradition of attracting a rather large market across the Atlantic.

And he provided the goal or assist for 49% of all Fulham's Premiership scores this year. That level of contribution is amongst Europe's elite.

Yet despite the plaudits and numbers, Dempsey's signature will hardly going to inspire fan confidence for a side that spends big on him. “Big” club fans to want reputations as well as proven history – witness the negative reaction to the solid Mikel Arteta signing for Arsenal. Spending the kind of cash Fulham would demand for a guy who would in effect become a bit-part player, doesn't look like good business. This is even more true considering the transfer-induced boost in Dempsey's salary, would be accompanied by occasional games rather than the week-in, week-out football which allowed him to blossom at Craven Cottage.

Should he hope for a move, “Deuce” can however rely on one redeeming factor. Despite football's Moneyball manifesto dying an inglorious Red death, there is one statistic which regularly translates to success: proven goalscoring ability. Papiss Demba Cisse, Demba Ba and Yakubu have elegantly proven this season that the ability to score goals at a top European league (especially in the Premiership) is worth the investment.

Despite this, it's hard to see Clint Dempsey leaving West London this summer. While he could perhaps thicken his wallet, it's hard to see any club willing to pay him and a likely upscale transfer fee.

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