If Fulham are to stay up this season they will owe a lot to their strong contingent of loan players.
Indeed, once again Fulham have made use of the loan market this season, and it’s fair to say that some of their best players are only at Craven Cottage on a temporary basis.
Of course, loanees performing well always leads to speculation about permanent deals for the players, and we’re going to rank each loanee based on how important it is for the Whites to keep them beyond this season.
6. Ruben Loftus-Cheek
If Ruben Loftus-Cheek finds his form he could quickly rocket up this list, but right now he has to be considered of least importance.
He’s reportedly on £150k-a-week so signing him on a permanent deal wouldn’t be cheap, and if we’re being brutally honest, he hasn’t lived up to expectations this season, scoring just once and struggling to really hold down a position in the starting XI.
The England international certainly has the talent to change his ranking on this list, but after half a season he sits sixth.
5. Mario Lemina
Mario Lemina has looked fantastic at times for Fulham this season, and with the Whites holding an option to buy him, it’s certainly a deal worth doing if Fulham stay up.
However, if Fulham are pushed for cash next season, it may not be worth exploring this option, after all, Scott Parker’s side have played most of their best football this season with Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Harrison Reed in the middle of the park.
Anguissa may command a bit of interest in the summer, and if the Cameroon international does end up leaving, Lemina will quickly move up this list.
4. Alphonse Areola
Alphonse Areola has arguably been Fulham’s Player of the Season so far, so the fact that he’s fourth on this list is a testament to how good the Whites’ other loanees have been.
Areola doesn’t place fourth on this list because of his talent, but more because he wouldn’t be missed as much as some others if he did leave.
Indeed, if Areola isn’t to make his stay permanent, Marek Rodak could come straight back into the XI as a ready-made replacement, whereas some of the other loanees don’t have players ready to come in for them.
Fulham do have an option to buy Areola, so if they manage to stay up, that’s a signing they should certainly be looking at making.
3. Ola Aina
If Areola is a contender for Player of the Season, Aina is the standout candidate for Most Improved Player.
The Nigeria international has seamlessly switched from being an attacking wing-back to being a sturdy outside centre-half in a back three, and as much as Tosin Adarabioyo and Joachim Andersen get the credit for the Whites’ defensive rebirth, Aina deserves just as much acknowledgement.
If Parker is going to stick with a back three, it is imperative that Aina is signed, and with an option to buy installed in this deal, we wouldn’t be surprised if he was.
2. Ademola Lookman
Away from a miscued penalty against West Ham, Ademola Lookman has barely put a foot wrong this season.
Lookman is arguably the most exciting dribbler we’ve seen at Craven Cottage since Kerim Frei, and unlike the Turkish winger, the RB Leipzig loanee has an end product, scoring three goals already this term.
His pace and directness will be key to Fulham staying up this season, and if he is available for £15m as The Sun reported, Tony Khan has to make sure to bite the Bundesliga side’s hand off.
1. Joachim Andersen
Has any loanee at Fulham ever had the sort of impact Joachim Andersen has already had in six months?
It was no coincidence that Fulham kept their first clean sheet of the season on this man’s debut, and within four games he was leading the side out as captain, a role he regularly takes up these days.
Andersen has been a true leader since coming in and on top of that he’s been dominant at the back.
The Scandanavian has gone a long way towards living up to his billing as the new Brede Hangeland, and while he won’t come cheap, he’s certainly worth every penny Fulham may have to pay for him.
Lyon may want to keep their record signing after this season, but Fulham would be foolish to not try very hard to keep him.