Okaka on verge of Fulham transfer

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The Independent Football

Fulham are on the brink of completing the loan signing of striker Stefano Okaka from Roma until the end of the season.

Okaka is undergoing a medical at Craven Cottage after negotiations over the 20-year-old were revived since a perceived lack of interest from the player and his club threatened to scupper the move.

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson expects the Italy Under-21 international to be available after the transfer window closes on Monday.

"The deal is on. It was never really off but there have been a lot of problems to iron out," said Hodgson.

"At the moment he's finishing off a medical. Barring any problems with the medical I expect him to join us from Monday.

"He won't be in line to play against Aston Villa tomorrow as Roma want him available for their game on Sunday."

Okaka started both of this season's Europa League matches between the clubs and scored the winner at the Stadio Olimpico in early November.

"Okaka played against us and did well. He's also played for Italy Under-21s," said Hodgson.

"We've been monitoring him for a long time, before we were drawn against Roma in the Europa League. His name was well known to our scouting staff."

Fulham's scouting department have certainly been earning their keep with the sale of Chris Smalling to Manchester United trumping their scrutiny of Okaka.

Smalling made only a handful of first-team appearances for the Cottagers before the 20-year-old centre-back became the subject of a bidding war between United and Arsenal this week.

Sir Alex Ferguson's successful offer of £7million, rising to £10million on appearances, represented a staggering profit on a player who cost just £10,000 from non-league Maidstone 18 months ago.

Hodgson expects Smalling, who will remain at Fulham until the end of the season though is barred from playing in the rivals' clash at Old Trafford on March 14, to take the move in his stride.

"Chris is potentially a great player in the making. He can handle the step up to Manchester United," he said.

"The day he had to step into the breach with us was a big step and now he has the next step to take. Of course I think he can go on and win England honours.

"Sir Alex must think that as well as he wouldn't have made that offer and paid the money he has done unless he thought this player would go all the way.

"If you're in the Manchester United team and are winning trophies then you'll always be of interest to England."

Hodgson is dismayed by Fulham's current injury problems with first-team regulars Clint Dempsey, Andy Johnson, Paul Konchesky and John Pantsil missing for the visit of Villa.

"I'm disappointed our injury level has developed to quite the level it has," he said.

"It's the first time in my two years at the club that I've had a headache fielding a team I'm comfortable with.

"Our midfield is terrific but in defence and attack we've been hit really hard.

"Villa are a stable and strong team so this is not the best time to be playing them."

Okaka's agent said the deal will be delayed until next week, with the player available to Roma boss Claudio Ranieri for this weekend's Serie A contest with Siena.

Domenico Scopelliti said on www.romagiallorossa.com : "The deal with Fulham is still on hold because the lad will be available to Ranieri until Monday and available for Sunday's match against Siena.

"If there are any developments, those will not take place before Monday."