The signing of Colombia international Hugo Rodallega for Fulham on a free transfer from Wigan slipped under the radar somewhat amidst the raft of big-money summer purchases around the Premier League. However, those who had picked up on it, particularly those residing at Craven Cottage, believed that Martin Jol had picked up a real coup.
Rodallega may have been coming off the back of a poor final season at the DW Stadium, where the form of Franco Di Santo, Wigan’s preferred system of a single-striker as well as contractual disputes limited him to just a handful of goals, but there was still no doubting the striker’s quality and predatory goalscoring instincts at this level.
Indeed, prior to last season’s poor tally of two, the 27-year-old hit 10 and nine league goals in the previous two seasons respectively, including vital strikes towards the end of both campaigns to keep Wigan in the Premier League. Besides his goals, an impressive tally for a team that would often struggle to make chances at the bottom of the table, Rodallega’s general play in terms of his work-rate, pace, ability to hold the ball up and bring others into play, made him a target for the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, let alone Fulham.
However for whatever reason, the move to the Cottage so far has not quite taken off. Having perhaps arrived in West London lacking in both fitness and confidence, Rodallega has first seen Mladen Petric hit the ground running in terms of goal-scoring, only to see Dimitar Berbatov brought in to play as Fulham’s single striker, the position Rodallega would occupy with such distinction for Wigan. Indeed, with his appearances mostly restricted to fleeting ones from the bench, it is no surprise that Rodallega has only scored once for the club so far, ironically at former club Wigan.
There is an argument that perhaps alongside the rather languid likes of Berbatov, Petric and Bryan Ruiz, that Rodallega perhaps does not quite compliment their talents. While the former all like the ball to feet, Rodallega prefers balls to run on to and scraps to feed off. Undoubtedly, that is not Fulham’s way under Jol. However, with his pace and desire, Rodallega offers Fulham something their play often lacks in terms of pure speed and directness.
Perhaps all he needs is a few more goals. After all, Rodallega’s Wigan career did not begin spectacularly and it was only after he began to find the net did his true quality begin to show. As Fulham prepare to face Stoke at the Britannia – the scene of arguably Rodallega’s greatest moment as a Wigan player as he scored the goal that kept them up in the 2010-11 season – the Colombian will most probably begin the match on the substitutes bench. However, the stage could just be set for him to come on and finally set his Fulham career alight.
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