Summer-long striker search turns up Brighton loan – Signing
Wednesday, 24th Jul 2019 18:51 by Clive Whittingham
QPR finally have a striker in their squad ahead of the season starting next Saturday – 20-year-old Slovenian Jan Mlakar has signed a season long loan deal from Brighton.
Jan Mlakar is a 20-year-old Slovenian youth international forward from Ljubljana.
The 6ft-tall youngster spent time with Fiorentina in Italy as a junior, making one senior appearance and a further three on loan at Venezia. He returned to his homeland to sign for Maribor in 2018/19 and a good first half of the season with 12 goals saw Premier League side Brighton sign him on a three-and-a-half-year deal in January for the dreaded undisclosed fee. They immediately loaned him back to Maribor for the rest of the season and he finished the campaign with 15 goals in 36 appearances as Maribor won the league title.
He has been capped by Slovenia at every level from U15s through to the U21s and their B team and has now signed a season long loan deal at QPR having been recommended to the R’s by Mark Warburton’s former assistant manager David Weir, who now works as the development manager at Brighton.
“I’m very pleased to be here. I really like what I’ve seen of the place and I know just what an important club QPR are in England. I’m very happy to be here so that I can help the team. I want to play as well as I can and I want to score goals. I spoke with the manager and he told me that he wanted a striker that suited his style of play. We all know that the Championship season starts soon, and I can’t wait to get started here.”, -Jan Mlakar
“Jan is a very talented striker who we’ve been aware of for a while. We’re very excited to have him on board – Jan is a very promising player who has already shown his qualities at international level. Our thanks must go to our friends at Brighton for their help on this one. We’re delighted to have him with us for the season.” -Mark Warburton
We don’t usually roll these pieces out for the loan signings but as loans are obviously going to be a big part of the strategy going forwards, and we’ve got the obligatory grainy YouTube compilation that everybody loves, and it’s an actual genuine striker for ourselves, we thought we’d make an exception. Even though, as you can tell, we know next to nothing about the guy.
Things are tough for Queens Park Rangers at the moment for all the reasons we’ve banged on about all the other times before. We’re not doing it again. It’s too hot. But they’re particularly difficult for us when it comes to strikers.
We cannot afford to buy one, because even a properly shit one at this level will now cost you north of £6m – Cardiff paid £6.8m for Gary Madine, for example, who has punched more people in nightclubs than he’s scored Championship goals. West Brom have just paid £8m for Kenneth Zohore, which means we’d have got at least £5m for Devon White in the current market. Villa paid more than that for Scott Hogan, Jonathan Kodija, and Ross McCormack and didn’t get a proper tune out of any of them. The market has been driven off into a distant playground where we’re not allowed to play.
Even the clubs we frequently admire in these columns, for their scouting and buy-low-sell-high methods, are grappling with this. Millwall, who run on a budget as tight as a mouse’s waistcoat, had to go out and spend £1m to get Tom Bradshaw from Barnsley, and he spent all of last season injured. Preston have tried a £750k punt on Jayden Stockley from Exeter and £400k on Billy Bodin from Bristol Rovers with some limited success. They did, of course, previously pick up Callum Robinson and Jordan Hugill and sell for big profits though, so it can be done with the sort of clever couting we seem to have abandoned. Huddersfield, when promoted from this league, did it with two loaned Chelsea forwards among their number.
We cannot afford to pick a decent one up on a free transfer, because apparently now being available on a free transfer gives a player and his agent full licence to ask for absolutely extortionate wages under some twisted “well you’re saving on the transfer fee so you may as well give it to me” logic. The most extreme example of this is Juventus making Aaron Ramsey one of the five richest kings of Europe, but it all filters down. Look at some of the players that are kicking around this summer unattached – that used to be the domain of reserve centre backs at the end of their deals with Scunthorpe United, now you have recent Premier League players, internationals, in their 20s, just kicking their heels in free agency. Daniel Sturridge, Danny Simpson, Gareth Barry…
And we struggle to loan them, because to bring in a Tammy Abraham on loan for a season will now cost you more in loan fees, wages and associated extras than QPR got for selling Les Ferdinand to Newcastle permanently when he was one of the greatest centre forwards in Europe at the time. My oft-quoted example is Sam Gallagher, who Birmingham put together a package in excess of £4m (including all of his £10k a week Southampton wages plus a further £10k a week on top) to borrow for one season and five goals. The ones we can get, as the last dog at the bowl, are either so green they’ve barely even sprouted yet (like today’s addition) or coming to the latter stages of their career and highly likely not to be arsed (like last year’s borrow from the same place). Honest to God, Nahki Wells is just about as perfect a loan striker as we’re ever going to be able to lay our hands on, and even that went awry in the end.
It’s why I think we were a little bit hasty in letting Matt Smith go, when for all his failings his goal record spoke for itself, and why it boils my piss to see people haranguing the club for weeks on end “to sign a striker”. They know we need strikers, they would if they could, but they can’t. There will, we’re assured, by another to go with Mlakar, which is good because asking a 20-year-old in his first full season in England to carry the weight of this team on his shoulders is cruel. But don’t expect it to be anybody startling.
With the surprise departure of Darnell Furlong to West Brom; the seemingly senseless addition of a poor goalkeeper from Colchester to a squad that already boasts five stoppers at a club that is supposed to be skint; the ongoing farcical situation with Massimo Luongo (no bids, no interest, but still no training); the decision to apparently abandon a loan deal for Chelsea’s Dujon Sterling and try to get through a 48-game season with Angel Rangel at right back and Dominic Ball as his cover; the ongoing striker shortage and plenty else besides… I’ve kind of resolved to reserve judgement on a mental, manic, fraught transfer window until it’s over. It looks like a chimp’s tea party at the moment, but let’s see what squad we’re left with when it’s all done and dusted.
And we needed a striker. Any sort of striker. By hook or by crook, begged stolen or borrowed.
But (you knew there would be a but) there are three themes and questions that keep coming back to me with each deal that is done. We’ll go into these more frankly when we inevitably spent what pitiful transfer fee budget we have this summer entirely on one frequently-injured, 30-year-old Alan Judge from Ipswich in the next fortnight but for now I’ll just summarise them here.
1 - Changing your entire starting 11 and manager from one season to the next, inside two months, and being competitive in the Championship from the get go is a very tall order.
2 - If all of these outgoings are being replaced with loans, or older players with no sell-on value, then who are we going to get the big transfer fees we need next summer for?
3 - The David Weir connection at Brighton makes this another Mark Warburton signing. If there was any doubt last summer that we've gone back to 'what manager wants manager gets' that's been dispelled this summer. Where are the director of football and head of recruitment in all of this?
Like I say, more on that when Judge and Cameron sign. You lucky people.
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