LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25: Queens Park Rangers Manager Mark Hughes shakes hands with Fulham Manager Martin Jol after the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Fulham at Loftus Road on February 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Dread to think that, in the week that we pay a visit, and leave a not-so-welcome present, to Mark Hughes is the same week that we truly take a step in the heady direction of ambition. Hughes, our former manager, produced a pertinent and rather scarring dialogue about how Craven Cottage played host to a side short on goals of longevity, leaving the thought that a decade of Premier League football without relegation and three European escapades just doesn't come near to representing anything close to some sort of ambitious tendency. Clearly, though, Queens Park Rangers do.
They have the money to throw around - although a fair proportion of their January budget is already proving to be poorly lavished upon a lackluster Bobby Zamora - they have a chairman that, at least in their very own Shepherd's Bush context, appears to be in it for some version of the long haul, and they have a manager with genuine acumen. And yet Hughes, in his egotistical world of self-appreciation, has still to fathom that Fulham have all of the above and more.
Monday's signing of Mahamadou Diarra proved as much - a player of undoubted quality and inherited talent, fused with a splendidly candid knack for being a winner in all its various forms. He may have come without a transfer fee, and he may well have surpassed the six month mark without anything resembling competitive football, but to bring a former Real Madrid stalwart to SW6 and make him work for an extended contract is a signal of the greatest of intentions for Fulham Football Club - and it's been coming.
Mohammed Al Fayed, now the chairman for fifteen years - a strenuously long stint for even the most authentic chairman in football these days - palpably still has his eye on the big time and he sees Martin Jol, a man doing an inconspicuously sound job given his blueprint, as the manager to bring a relative type of glory to the Whites. Releasing funds for the purchase of Bryan Ruiz, for example, highlight Al Fayed's unquestionable support of the Dutchman. His sale of Harrods was supposed to be a marker for greater investment in the club, but the feeling still remains that the Egyptian was waiting on Jol to truly let his funds pour.
Because, while Diarra is disguised in his worded cloud of 'free agent', his wage package will be unmistakably vast. He's a player of such great calibre and history that there is little else to expect, in reality, and by some means or another, Al Fayed has probably had to stretch what is usually a particularly tight wage budget. And that's why, despite the pedigree Diarra brings, the transfer is still somewhat of a risk. Backfire, and six months of cosmic pay will seep from the club.
The Malian is a midfielder famed for his more resistive and robust qualities and it's his former duties that have left him in his own wilderness. Injury proved to be his undoing at Real Madrid and his career has never picked up from then on - Jol and Al Fayed will be aware of such facts.
Despite the concerns, however, bringing Mahamadou Diarra to the Cottage is an indisputably enthusiastic move. He is a signifier to what Al Fayed envisions and he is a signifier to what Fulham FC can be. Diarra may not be at his peak, but at thirty the game is certainly not beyond him. His success speaks his own story and, most assuredly, his football in London will too.
Whether this will make Mark Hughes look back and wonder about what could have been; only he knows. One thing is for certain, however, and that is the ambition of Mohammed Al Fayed. Quirky moments aside, he is a chairman envied across the Premier League.