LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21: Nani of Manchester United is challenged by Mousa Dembele of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Manchester United at Craven Cottage on December 21, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
The hope of keeping Moussa Dembele, amidst all the rumours surrounding team mate Clint Dempsey's likely Fulham departure, have taken a blow, with news that Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool are all now chasing the Belgian's signature.
Dembele has been a revelation for Fulham since signing under Mark Hughes' tutorship in the summer of 2010. At a then cost of £5 million, the midfielder-cum-striker was wrangled from the hands of Birmingham City - who had supposedly already agreed a deal with the player - and settled wonderfully into the Craven Cottage setup.
His ability on the ball is his most potent, threatening and enticing trait. The former AZ Alkmaar player has close control that is almost unrivalled across the Premier League and it opens up spaces in a game that has proven invaluable to Fulham over his two seasons in SW6.
The only area in which Dembele is ever criticised is his lack of goals. Despite regularly finding himself in suitable positions, he rarely finds the net - evidential in his return of only six goals in all competitions since setting foot in London.
That hasn't stopped the interest from increasing over the course of the season and his fine form has now alerted, amongst others, Manchester United and Arsenal. Sir Alex Ferguson could well see him as a perfect candidate for a central midfield role as, over recent weeks, Fulham manager Martin Jol has proven Dembele to be well adept to playing in the middle of the park.
United and Arsenal will face competition from Spurs and Liverpool although the draw of Champions League football may well attract him to Manchester. As it is, Jol will be loathe to lose one of his most prized assets at Fulham, especially given the expected departure of leading goalscorer Clint Dempsey.