Each week Simon Bunn looks back at a player that arrived in the Premiership with a huge reputation, and often a hefty transfer fee. They were the type of signing that had fans licking their lips and rushing to club shops to get their new heroes name embezzled on the back of shirts. But, after the hype followed the ultimate realisation that they couldn’t quite cut the English mustard.
2001 was an exciting time for fans of Fulham football club. Under the continental guidance of Jean Tigana they had just won promotion into the English Premier League and, with the use of Mohammed Al Fayed’s bulging cheque book, were signalling their intent to stay there.
They had already set eyes dilating by securing the services of Dutch goalkeeper, Edwin Van der Sar, from Juventus for a record £7m, but bigger was yet to follow. Fulham wanted a hit man that would fire them to Premier League safety, whilst also capturing the hearts of the Craven Cottage following. Naturally, Tigana turned his attentions to the French League and narrowed his target down toLyon’s Steve Marlet.
The French striker was by no means an astonishing goal scorer in the French Ligue 1, averaging 1 in 4 for Auxerre and just under 1 in 3 forLyon, but his performances had been enough to earn him call up’s to the national team. The player had also impressed in the previous season’s Champion’s League campaign. Forming a potent partnership with the Brazilian Sonny Anderson, Lyon narrowly missed out on reaching the last eight of the competition, with Marlet netting an impressive 5 goals along the way.
It was more than enough for a salivating Tigana to persuade Al Fayed to part with a club record cheque of £11.5m. It took theLondon’s clubs post promotion spending to £40m and remained Fulham’s record purchase until 2008. Tigana was brimming with joy when announcing the capture of the talented 27 year old, "I am pleased to announce that Steve is joining Fulham. I have said in the past that it is important for me to strengthen the squad and I believe that Steve's striking ability will be a valuable asset to our first season in the Premiership.”
It proved to be a very misleading press conference. Although Fulham survived relegation Marlet only managed 6 goals during his first season, being out scored by both Barry Hayles and Louis Saha. His second season was no better, contributing a measly 4 in 28 games. The Frenchman’s terrible performances were thought to be the eventual downfall of manager Tigana who was sacked. Fulham shipped Marlet off to Marseille on loan for his third season, but still paid all of his sizeable wages.
It signalled the end of Marlet’s brief and awful Fulham career. In fact the £11.5m purchase had proved so disastrous that Mohammed Al Fayed took Jean Tigana to court over the signing. It was alleged that Tigana, who had ties to Lyon, signed the player for an exorbitant sum of money, taking a cut of the fee himself. “I won’t let any crook destroy Fulham” said Al Fayed. The charges were later dropped.
With equally barren stints at VFL Wolfsburg, FC Lorient, Aubervilliers and FC Red Star Saint-Ouen, Marlet never did get his career back on track.
image: © nicksarebi