Fulham teen Sessegnon ready to strut his stuff

LONDON • Appropriately, it was teenager Ryan Sessegnon's astute pass that paved the way for Fulham to reach the English Premier League promised land with a Championship play-off win on Saturday.

The 18-year-old has earned rave reviews for his performances, with speculation rife about which top-flight side would secure his signature in the close season.

But, after Fulham's 1-0 victory over Aston Villa at Wembley and the minimum £160 million (S$285.7 million) windfall that came with it, he should be starting next season in Fulham's white strip. The money includes £95 million next term, as part of the EPL's broadcasting rights deal, and up to £75 million in parachute payments should they fail to stay up.

Defeat would have put huge pressure on them to sell the left-back, who scored 16 Championship goals this season, and Tom Cairney, 27, who scored the winner.

Sessegnon will be targeted over the coming months, but billionaire owner Shahid Khan has the financial muscle to resist overtures for a player many felt deserved an England World Cup call-up.

Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic, who also took Watford into the Premier League, will also expect some funds to strengthen the squad in the close season.

"We deserved it. It's not easy to play at Wembley, there is a lot of pressure," said Jokanovic.

"We know what is ahead of us. The Premier League is the best and most competitive league, and we must be clever.

"Now we must show ambition to be a Premier League team, show ambition with (transfer) money too. We must know what characters and what players we need. We must try and dominate teams we believe we can dominate."

While Fulham look ahead to a return to the top flight after a four-year absence, Steve Bruce's Villa side are condemned to a third year of second-tier football.

"It's been difficult this season financially, so we understand. We've been saying that for the last 12 months," Bruce said.

"Defeat is difficult. We've come close this year and we'll try again."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2018, with the headline 'Fulham teen Sessegnon ready to strut his stuff'. Print Edition | Subscribe