Kenny Tete yet to accept Fulham’s contract offer as decision over future looms

Boasting a full complement of players has many upsides for Fulham — not least the options available from the bench. That was evident against Nottingham Forest earlier this month as a dismal start to the match was met by a triple substitution after 32 minutes.

The flip side is that, with everyone fit, someone has to miss out on the squad altogether.

In recent weeks, Chelsea loanee Armando Broja has found himself out of the picture, missing three consecutive matchday squads. So, too, have AC Milan loanee Fode Ballo-Toure and centre-back Issa Diop. Diop returned to the league matchday squad last weekend against West Ham for the first time since February. Ballo-Toure has been stuck in the stands since March.

For Fulham’s most recent two fixtures, against Newcastle and West Ham, Kenny Tete also joined the list of  absentees.

The Netherlands international had played his first 90 minutes since September against Nottingham Forest on April 2 — it was also his first start since January — but was dropped for Newcastle’s visit, with Timothy Castagne returning instead. Tete had struggled against Forest’s Callum Hudson-Odoi but was not alone in toiling at the City Ground.

He lacked match sharpness on a challenging evening.

Tete under pressure from Forest’s Chris Wood (Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images)

“It is difficult to leave players out of the squad,” Silva said on Friday, confirming that Fulham once more have a fully fit squad available to face Liverpool. “Those conversations are not difficult to have when you are honest with them. When everything is so clear and decisions come from matchday performance, performance in the week, or the plan for the match.

“It is much more difficult for the player because they are out. I would love to have all of them with me on the matchday because they deserve it.”

Asked about Tete specifically, Silva said his absence was a technical decision. Given Diop and Ballo-Toure still cannot break into the squad, that does not seem out of the ordinary.

It has, though, been a difficult season for Tete.

Injuries have been disruptive. He suffered a groin issue in the autumn, missing all of October and six games in total. In February, he succumbed to a minor Achilles tendon issue that kept him out of the squad for games against Bournemouth and Aston Villa. This season he has been in Premier League matchday squad 23 times and started only nine.

When fit and available, he has also found Castagne ahead of him in the pecking order. Castagne signed from Leicester City in a deal worth £15million ($19m) last summer and was a key target for Silva. Fulham saw off interest from Juventus for his signature, waiting throughout the window to land their man.

The Belgian has performed consistently well since his arrival, starting 24 matches and completing 90 minutes in 20 of those. Against Newcastle, some of Fulham’s best attacking moments in their bright opening 20 minutes stemmed from his flank via combinations with Alex Iwobi.

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Castagne has thrived since arriving from Leicester (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

He has been solid rather than spectacular. He has registered two assists and, when asked in the matchday programme in February, described his first season at the club as “all right” but lacking a “great performance”. He has, though, been incredibly dependable. That has helped him become first choice.

“Timo has been top, top for us — we knew (he would be) before we signed him,” said Silva earlier this season. “Because of that, we waited for him. He was the first-choice (target) for the position.

“As a professional, it’s difficult to find someone better than him. You could find someone at the same level, but he is someone who comes in here ready to work. A really focused player. He’s been so important and he can do even more.

“We have to keep working with him to improve his decision-making in the final third, and to be decisive in terms of assists. That’s important to the way we play. But he’s a top professional.”

Silva also stressed that Tete’s absences this term have not stemmed from his contract situation. “First, about Kenny, it’s important to talk about him (Castagne),” he said earlier this season. “Everything in terms of injuries (absences) with Kenny is not to do with his contract situation. He’s an important player.

“It’s been a long time he has not been available to play this season. It’s for different reasons — not to do with his contract. It’s important to be clear about this.”

Nevertheless, Tete’s contractual situation is coming to a head.

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Tete wriggles away from Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling (Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images)

The full-back’s contract expires at the end of June but Fulham have an option to extend it by 12 months. However, the club would prefer to sign him on longer terms.

Fulham have offered him a new contract, which Silva confirmed on Friday. But this has not yet been accepted. “We are having conversations with him and his agent,” he said. “But if you ask if we offered a contract, then yes, we did offer a contract. A long time ago.”



Kenny Tete embodies Fulham’s rise over the past two years

Tete turns 29 in October and this is a key juncture for him.

He has become a fan favourite and was a standout performer last year as Fulham secured a 10th-placed finish. Noteworthy games included a dominant display against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, one of many excellent one-on-one performances against the league’s best wingers.

This year has been more difficult for him and the deadline for the decision on his future is not far away.

In May, clubs must file their released and retained lists, which means they must trigger contract options by then. Fulham will want clarity, for budget and recruitment reasons. “We are having conversations with his agent and we have the option if we want to trigger it,” Silva said when asked whether the Tete’s contract option will be activated if their offer is not accepted. “That’s a decision we will make soon.”

According to two other sources with knowledge of Fulham’s transfer plans, who wish to remain anonymous to protect their relationships, the club are looking at right-backs; they clearly would rather tie down Tete to a longer deal but are making contingency plans.

Tete is not alone with contract decisions on the horizon. Willian will make a decision over his future at the end of the season, while Tosin Adarabioyo and Bobby De Cordova-Reid are approaching the final weeks of their deals.

As with Tete, uncertainty remains but decision-day looms.

(Top photo: Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

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