• Magath says striker is only fit to play 30 minutes
• But new £12m signing will not even be a substitute
The sense of uncertainty at Fulham has been heightened as Felix Magath revealed that Kostas Mitroglou, the £12m striker they signed from Olympiakos in January, will not feature at all against Chelsea. The German manager initially said that Mitroglou has been left out because he is not fit enough but Magath later retracted those comments, which appeared to have lost something in translation, and instead said that the forward is not ready to handle the intensity of the Premier League.
While Mitroglou had a slight injury when he signed for Fulham, he made his debut as a 61st-minute substitute in last week's 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion, which was also Magath's first game in charge. However the manager caused surprise by saying that the 25-year-old, who impressed in a recent outing for Fulham's Under-21 side, is not part of his plans for the visit of Chelsea on Saturday afternoon but could return against Cardiff City next week. Fulham are bottom and four points behind 17th-placed West Bromwich with 11 matches left.
Magath's explanation for Mitroglou's absence did little to clear up the situation, though. "He is fit enough to play half an hour but he is not fit enough to play 90 minutes at the moment," he said. "But he will develop. He was injured and so he needs some time and he has worked a lot for the last four weeks or so. He will be ready to join us next week."
Yet those comments only added to the mystery surrounding Mitroglou. Magath, Fulham's third manager this season, had said that the Greek was fit enough to play half an hour. So why can't he be on the bench? But Magath was not budging. "I have told you," he said. "No."
Mitroglou arrived from Greece with a reputation as a deadly finisher, having score 21 goals for club and country this season, including a hat-trick in Olympiakos's 4-0 win against Anderlecht in the Champions League.
Yet Magath, who oversaw fitness tests for his players last Monday, believes that the lack of competition in the Greek league means that Mitroglou is unsuited to dealing with the rigours of English football. "I think the most difficult thing is he is used to playing in a small league and he was playing in the best club in this league," Magath said.
"They are always the better team and they hold the game. If you are at a team where you defend more, he is not used to that situation. The biggest problem for him is to get used to the higher level of the Premier League and then that he has to do defensive work that he was not asked to do before."
Magath was asked if it seems strange that Fulham have spent so much money on a player who does not appear to fit their style. He replied that he would work with Mitroglou to get him ready. "You cannot change a player in two days," he said. "You have to work with him and show him what you want from him but the time is too short. I have been here 10 days or so. It makes no sense to take that risk."
Yet it might be too late by the time Mitroglou has adapted. "Nobody can tell you how fast he adapts," Magath said. "I cannot see into the future. But we [will] work on it."