Fulham reach stalemate in talks with Malbranque

May 8, 2006

Fulham's contract talks with Steed Malbranque have reached stalemate with boss Chris Coleman admitting he must sell the French midfielder if he fails to agree a new deal.

GettyImages / PhilColeMalbranque: Fulham misfit still too expensive for Southgate's wage structure.

Malbranque's magnificent end to the season has put him in the shop window but Fulham are desperate to keep their £5million-rated playmaker, who turned down a move to Manchester City last summer.

The 26-year-old has one year left to run on his current contract and Coleman knows the need to recoup a transfer fee means he will have to listen to bids if fresh terms are rejected.

'We're desperate to hang onto Steed,' said the Welshman 'We want him here and he has a year left on his contract but we can't afford to let Steed run his contract down and walk away for nothing.

'We're desperately trying to keep him so it's bit of a stalemate. It's up to Steed if he wants to stay and be a part of us.

'He knows how important he is to this club. We'll make him the most attractive offer we can but in the end it's his decision.'

Coleman also wants to make England left-back Wayne Bridge a permanent signing but has had no discussions with Chelsea over a transfer fee for the 25-year-old.

'We want to keep Wayne but an obstacle will be the price,' he said. 'We don't know what Chelsea want for him. They may not even want to sell him. If they do at what price?.'

Fulham completed their Premiership campaign in 12th spot, one place higher than last term.

For all the talk of Coleman losing his job, which crops up regularly, the Cottagers have enjoyed a certain amount of stability under his guidance.

His first season in charge saw the club record their highest top-flight finish in ninth and the 35-year-old believes the club are performing at the expected level.

'I'm much happier with the guys this year than last. We've had 13 home wins which is terrific - that's top-five form,' he said. 'If we'd won just two more away games we would be top 10 or eight.

'Bear in mind that last summer we lost Edwin van der Sar, Lee Clark and Andy Cole - the spine of the time - and had replace them with a small amount of money. It was practically impossible.

'It was always going to be difficult. The wrong perception of us is Mohamed Al Fayed is chairman, we've spent lots of money and we should be higher in the table.

'The reality is we have great fans and a great ground, but we don't have one of the biggest fan bases. We have one of the smallest budgets in terms of wages, so why should we be any higher?

'The players have done tremendously well. At one point we had eight or nine injuries and we can't even get away with one or two.'