Fulham forward Clint Dempsey has played a risky game with his future this summer as he seeks to force through a move to Liverpool before the transfer window closes, going past the point of no return when it comes to the nature of his actions and the meaning that they carry, but is he in danger of putting all of his eggs in one basket?
After top scoring for the club last season with 17 goals in the league and 23 across all competitions, the 29 year-old American was strongly linked with moves to both Arsenal and Liverpool after finishing the campaign as the most productive midfielder in the entire top flight.
Dempsey has stated in the past that the only reason he would leave Craven Cottage is for a Champions League club, and Liverpool, the sole side still in the race for his signature apparently, are not that, but they do offer Europa League football, something which he has tasted before having reached the final back in 2010 under Roy Hodgson where they lost 2-1 to a Diego Forlan inspired Atletico Madrid side, but is he in danger of burning all of his bridges?
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers upon taking over the club confirmed his interest in the player stating: “Clint is a player we’ve enquired about, it is as simple as that,” which led to Dempsey pulling out of the club’s pre-season training camp in Switzerland before flying home and training by himself in an attempt to force through a move.
However, while the interest may have been confirmed, no bid of any sort emerged and this left Fulham boss Martin Jol with a want-away player going into the new season, which just further strengthens the argument that the transfer window should close as soon as the season kicks-off simply because of how it has the potential to disrupt squads and the player in question has certainly become unsettled.
The Dutch boss had this to say last week on the matter: “Clint told everyone he was going to Liverpool before he came back so we really thought there was quite a firm interest in him. Even Brendan Rodgers told everyone he was interested in Clint Dempsey, but our people never had an offer. It is almost embarrassing. Clint wants to move. He doesn’t want to commit to this club and, while I would like to keep him, it’s impossible. He told me that he wants to go to a Champions League club.”
Dempsey then apparently refused to play in the club’s opening league game, during which they hammered Norwich 5-0 at home, not only leaving a sour taste in the mouth, but also displaying that there is life after him at the club. He was fined a weeks’ wages for his troubles and was chanted about by the home fans, who sung “Are you watching Clint Dempsey?” as they struck their fifth from the penalty spot through Steve Sidwell.
Jol described the situation perfectly in the aftermath of their win, where he told reporters that he was still hopeful of keeping him at the club, saying: “(Dempsey) told me ‘you know what I want to happen’ and at that time it was to go to Liverpool. I told our people that we had to listen to other clubs, but there was no other club. There have been no firm offers for Clint. To say he refused to play is probably a bit harsh but he wanted to move and if you want to move, you don’t want to take risks so you don’t want to play in case you get an injury. So for me that was a very awkward situation and it was for him as well
“Clint feels he needs a move and that move was probably Liverpool, but Liverpool bought new players and no Clint, so we have ended up with a situation with Clint here at Fulham, but he is not committed to the club. Hopefully there will be an offer for him but our chairman is strong. We can’t let Clint go on the cheap. He has signed his contract and if no firm offer is on the table he will stay here.
As the clock ticks down ever closer to the end of the transfer window, though, Liverpool really are the utility forward’s only option and it appears as if this whole furore has been mightily unfair on Fulham. The latest fad in the game is for a player to attempt to force through a move to another club during pre-season by refusing to train; Robin van Persie did it to get his move to Manchester United, Luka Modric with his move to Real Madrid and also Dempsey and it shows a huge amount of disrespect to the club that has helped nurture his talent and there are better ways to leave a club than this.
Liverpool are in a strong bargaining position as they are aware that Dempsey has just one year left on his contract and that Fulham definitely need to sell this window to make any kind of money on him. Nevertheless, the longer they leave it, they cheaper they are likely to get him and I’d be very surprised if they paid over the £10m originally quoted last month for his signature now, even with the club’s somewhat infamous inability to negotiate a fair deal for themselves.
As a result of all of this, Rodgers has targeted getting the rest of his business for the transfer window done first, with Fabio Borini, Joe Allen and Ousmane Assaidi all arriving, while Andy Carroll looks set to stay. The latest rumour doing the rounds is that Rodgers is going to raise the £7.5m needed by selling off both Charlie Adam and Jay Spearing, with Everton and Bolton interested respectively, but there is a worry that they may need to sell again before they can buy, which sets the whole move back even further.
Dempsey has been at Fulham for six years now, scoring 50 goals in the league and playing over 200 times for the club, but we mustn’t get into the position of criticising him for his ambition, which is all too quickly used as an ugly word in football. West Ham have been mooted, but I can’t see Dempsey moving there, while Arsenal have moved on this summer with the signings of Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski instead, which leaves just Liverpool in the running and has done for some time.
Nonetheless, how he has acted throughout this transfer saga will leave a negative lasting impression and while he may want to join a Champions League club, in reality, he’s moving to one that finished just a solitary place above them in the league last season on goal difference. Dempsey has gambled on Rodgers being true to his word back in July on his intentions to sign him, and if no move materialises, he faces an awkward season in limbo due to the way he’s acted, which is a sorry state of affairs after such a great campaign last year.
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