The Sun have reported that Roma are planning to swoop for the in-form midfield machine that is Clint Dempsey and prise him away from Fulham. They also report that Arsene Wenger has also shown an interest in bringing the Texan to Arsenal. The question is, does Dempsey really deserve his £7 million price-tag or is his valuation simply too steep?
Like most others, I have been swayed by the current hype surrounding Clint Dempsey but I have to wonder, on what grounds this flurry of activity is actually based? At this time of year it is expected that players who have attracted the headlines during the season, especially those from the less fashionable clubs, will be linked with a possible move to the so-called ‘bigger’ clubs and even moves abroad during the close season.
So what is all the fuss about? Has Dempsey merely been an underrated and somewhat over-looked player since first gracing the Premier League back in 2007, but now being appreciated for his talents? Or has he fell victim to another piece of newspaper speculation that has inflated his invaluation and therefore his footballing credentials?
I have seen him play, and without being a stand out player week-in, week-out for Fulham, he does seem to always pose some sort of threat, especially in the air most prominently from set pieces. In a similar vein to Tim Cahill at Everton, Dempsey is a midfielder come striker, and is most effective when plying his trade in the whole behind the main forward; a combination that proved effective with former Fulham player Bobby Zamora and now new signing Pavel Pogrebnyak. Dempsey is adept at making late runs and this therefore makes him difficult to mark. With this, he has consequently caused problems for opposing defences by popping up to score a significant number of goals for his side.
Dempsey has been doing this for a number of seasons now, and this will not have gone unnoticed by Fulham fans; however, now the rest of the footballing world are taking notice. The consistent and gradual improvement, both in form and the football played by Fulham, is paying dividends for both Dempsey and his club. As previously touched on, the new acquisition of Russian forward Pavel Pogrebnyak, and the improved service from the likes of the experienced Damien Duff and John Arne Riise coupled with the emerging talent of teenager Kerim Frei, has aided the overall effectiveness of Dempsey in the Fulham side. What is significant however, and most definitely the focus for the sudden hysteria surrounding Dempsey can be found in the players’ statistics for this season.
This campaign, Dempsey’s goal scoring record of 16 goals in 33 games means he averages almost a goal every two games for Fulham in the Premier League. If we add to this a further 3 goals in the Europa League and 3 goals in the FA Cup; in all of the domestic league, cup and European appearances Dempsey has made in the 2011/2011 season, he has scored 22 goals and 6 assists for his Fulham teammates. This impressive goal tally leaves him behind only Sergio Aguero, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie up to this point, with still a handful of games left to play.
The phenominal goal scoring form he has been in this season is not a flash in the pan, Dempsey’s goal return has been reasonably consistent since coming to England. Excluding this season’s figures, since arrving in the UK in the winter of 2007, Dempsey has averaged 11.25 goals per season in all competitions; impressive figures for essentially a midfielder who had only previously played in the MLS in the United States. A record which rivals USA compratriot and former Fulham striker Brian McBride.
It has to be said that Dempsey has managed impressive figures like these at one of the less fashionable clubs. Not at United, not at City but at a club were chances and goal scoring opportunities are more scarce due to the quality of players around him, compared to that which the Rooney’s and the Aguero’s have at their disposal. This is not to say that Fulham are not a good side, they have made great strides since returning to the Premier League, not forgetting their European campaign in 2010 that saw them reach the Europa League final. But clearly they are not title challengers and have been a mid-table side for a considerable number of years.
Taking all this into consideration, there is no doubt in my mind that Clint Dempsey more than warrants the accolades he is currently receiving and the subsequent transfer speculation surrounding the in-form American. At the age of 29, Dempsey has a good few years left in him yet, but an important factor in this story is his contract is up in the summer of 2013.
Although more than a year away, with the form that he is showing, now may be the prime and most lucrative time for Fulham to cash in on their top scorer. Unless the Cottagers can tie Dempsey down to a longer deal, which I’m sure is a main priority for Martin Jol at this moment in time, the lure of Europe’s elite sides may be too big for Clint to pass on. With this in mind, it may be best for all parties in the South West London club to cash in whilst Dempsey’s profile is at its peak, and therefore get a good bit of business out of the attacking midfielder whilst they still can. If they delay too long Dempsey could walk away from the club for nothing come June 2013.
Understandably, I believe that Dempsey has been an overlooked gem at Fulham and more than deserves the £7 million price tag currently hanging over his head. However, if the American does leave Fulham this summer, would he reproduce the same form at clubs of a higher standard that simultaneously bring higher expectations? Only time will tell… watch this space.
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