Pajtim Kasami 20 Midfielder Fulham
With Pajtim Kasami we are emphatically stepping into enigma territory. Born in Macedonia but growing up in Switzerland, Kasami was singled out as a midfielder with great promise at local side Winterthur. Developing well at the Swiss club as a junior, Kasami was poached by Grasshopper Zurich while a number of other sides monitored his progress. Clearly a midfielder with a lot to offer, he spent a period of time on Merseyside with Liverpool before eventually agreeing to join Lazio aged 16.
Opportunities for first team action would still be a considerable way off for the precocious youngster, but he was selected to play at youth international level for Switzerland - the Swiss keen to ensure that ties were bound amid interest from Macedonia and Albania for whom Kasami also qualified to play. Facing accusations of a poor attitude and having failed to turn up for training once too often, no sooner was Kasami in Italy before he was dispatched back to Switzerland, with provincial club Bellinzona only too happy to pick up one of Europe’s most exciting teenagers.
Following ten appearances in the Swiss Super League, it became clear that the robust attacking midfielder had something about him and it was no great surprise to find that Palermo, ever ready to invest in a promising youngster, had agreed a deal to bring Kasami back to Italy. Within days of his 18th birthday, Pajtim Kasami was a Palermo player and was immediately elevated to the first team of his new club. A good season followed, and while his time at Palermo could hardly be referred to as distinguished, he played well in the games in which he started during 201-11.
With a five year contract in place and an opportunity to develop further at - and subsequently be worth more money to - Palermo, it was something of a surprise to see Kasami move to Fulham in the summer of 2011. Nevertheless a number of early season matches suggested that the player had made a wise move, and, for their part, Fulham believed they had made a handy acquisition.
Despite not winning any of their first three Premier League games in 2011-12, Martin Jol spoke in glowing terms about the recently arrived youngster’s ability. However things quickly turned sour when Kasami stepped up to take, and promptly miss, a penalty for Fulham in their League Cup match against Chelsea. Jol was furious, insisting that Portuguese striker Orlando Sa was the player to take the spot kick and that Kasami had defied a direct instruction. The young charge was given a very public dressing down by his manager and received a fine for the misdemeanour.
First team opportunities at Fulham, somewhat inevitably, began to contract at this point and Kasami found that the remainder of the season involved watching matches as an unused substitute rather than as a regular starter. With play restricted, Kasami was linked with a return to Italy and Juventus in the January 2012 transfer window. The mooted move remained speculative as the window closed.
Had he alighted to Juve, The Old Lady would have become the young midfielder’s seventh club in the space of three years, despite Kasami not yet emerging from his teens. And that telling stat highlights the Pajtim Kasami enigma entirely.
Kasami has been monitored and courted by clubs since he was a child. Talent and technique are clearly there, strength and ability are not in doubt, but the regular moves do raise the question as to whether personal problems and indiscipline could be a factor.
On the other hand it is worth noting that Kasami has only just turned twenty and his opportunities to make an impact at Fulham have been severely impaired by the standard of player in front of him. Although able to perform as a winger or striker, it is a more central role that Kasami covets. The fact that Sidwell, Dembele, Murphy and Diarra performed so well at different stages for Fulham in 2011-12 made it nigh on impossible for the Swiss youth international to gain a run of matches. The goalscring form of Clint Dempsey, operating as an attacking midfielder to such a high standard, closed off another route to first team action.
Pajtim Kasami, despite looking a likely exponent of the exit door at Craven Cottage remains a Fulham player, and this might just be the best place for him. If the attitude is good, and Kasami is patient, further opportunities will arrive, but there's nothing so far to suggest either will happen. For this enigma, there are far more questions than answers.
"Kasami has got away with repetitive pressing of the self-destruct button since he was a kid, but it looks like it’s finally caught up with him at Fulham. Everything that is wrong with young footballers illustrated perfectly” - Jeff Livingstone (IBWM)
E This is a player with talent, but whether he can make the grade is a debatable. The next twelve months will be interesting