When he joined Fulham from Swiss side Grasshoppers in 2010, Kerim Frei was a sixteen year-old who many wouldn’t have heard of. However, he had sprung onto the radar of many European clubs around the time as he was obviously thought highly of and became sought after, with Fulham being the ones to secure his signature. He made his move to London and was inducted into their youth team, where he felt at home and comfortable that his style was compatible with that of the under 18′s at the time.
A couple of years down the line and Frei is turning heads in the Premier League. It’s often easier for players of his type, the tricky attacking wingers, to make an impression when they are introduced onto a bigger stage because all it takes is one goal or nice bit of play for fans to remember the name. However Frei appears to be maintaining his level of performance and proving himself to be a valuable member of the first team.
When he first moved to England, like many others, he noticed the difference in terms of the physicality of the English game. But commendably, when he was still new to this way of football, he said “I’m not going to change the way I play though, I will always try and make things happen for the team. I love having the ball at my feet and taking players on.” This has proven to be the case in recent weeks, but he shows maturity and development beyond his years in the fact that he does get his head up and build team moves as opposed to blindly running like a bull to a red rag.
The eighteen year-old winger has recently signed a contract extension to keep him at the club until 2015. Although bigger clubs may come in with offers on the table in the not too distant future, the fact that Frei has put pen to paper now is a good sign for Fulham fans because it signals his intent to stay at the club and play as much football as he can. Martin Jol said in mid-March that “He listens and works hard on the training pitch, and his improvement since I started has been very impressive, so much so that I now consider him very much part of the first team squad.” So it seems as though Kerim has strong backing and encouragement coming from his manager which is important for young foreign players in their first few years in English football.
The 2011/12 campaign could potentially be the breakthrough season for Frei, where he gets properly established into the first team and possibly the starting eleven. He currently has 20 appearances in all competitions for Fulham and scored his first goal in a Europa League tie against Odense in December. Although being used sparingly in the league and major games so far, Kerim has played against Chelsea three times already, each match resulting in a draw, and has looked impressive on the occasions he has figured. He offers a good outlet down the left channel, an avenue which he can look to expose. He does so in a confident but intelligent manner, running at wing backs and cutting inside, but also holding the ball up nearer the corner and laying it back to a team mate when necessary.
In his first season in the Premier League you couldn’t really ask for much more from Kerim Frei with the opportunities he has been given. Fulham are are great side for him to develop in because although they won’t be challenging for top six, they have a pretty stable team with experienced and talented footballers. He has people like Dembele, Murphy and Dempsey who not only play decent football and get results for the team, but who work extremely hard on and off the ball. This takes the pressure is off of the youngster’s shoulders but at the same time the work ethic and motivation is there, which should help Frei develop into a quality member of the Fulham team over the next couple of years.
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