The Guardian is reporting that Clint Dempsey’s much-speculated return to Fulham is a done deal. A two-month loan from Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders will begin on Jan. 1 bring the 30-year-old back to the United States ahead of his MLS team’s March 8 season opener, sacrificing preseason with his new club for a chance to return to Craven Cottage.
Citing “US sources,” the London-based outlet reports Dempsey will stay in southwest London “until late February,” returning to the club where he scored 23 all-competition goals in 2011-12. That summer, Dempsey moved from Fulham to Tottenham Hotspur, leaving the Cottagers as the club’s all-time leading scorer in Premier League play.
Dempsey left Tottenham before the start of Spurs’ 2013-14 season to move back to Major League Soccer, where he played with the New England Revolution from 2004-2006. His three-and-a-half year deal with the Sounders includes a clause that allows him to go on loan this winter in preparation for the 2014 World Cup.
Though Spurs held an option on Dempsey’s return, the U.S. captain will instead rejoin Fulham, who we originally signed for in Dec. 2006. Over the course of five-and-a-half seasons, Dempsey scored 60 all-competition goals, including twice in Fulham’s 2009-10 run to the Europa League final.
By the end of his time at Craven Cottage, Dempsey had evolved into one of the team’s most important players, but with Rene Meulensteen having recently taken as manager over for Martin Jol, it’s unclear how the 101-time U.S. international will be used. Over the past two games, Fulham has played with two attackers flanking Dimitar Berbatov (the club’s number nine), and while Dempsey could play in either of those spots, he also gives Meulensteen a player capable of playing in support of a lead striker. Likewise, if Berbatov (in the final year of his contract) is moved in the winter transfer window, Dempsey gives Meulenteen another option through the middle.
For Seattle, a team that’s making a number of changes this offseason, losing their playmaker through training camp will be a significant blow; however, it will not be an unanticipated one. As the Sounders appear set to build around Dempsey playing in support of the likes of Obafemi Martins, Kenny Cooper, and Lamar Neagle, they’ve been aware of the likelihood of Dempsey’s absence, one which should help him prepare for Brazil 2014.