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Karagounis needed sooner rather than later at Fulham

Fulham Turnstiles

Mahamadou Diarra's injury turns the spotlight even more sharply on Fulham boss Martin Jol's latest shrewd free agent acquisition, Giorgos Karagounis.

Fulham knew exactly what they were getting into when they signed Mahamadou Diarra as a free agent in the Spring. The former Real Madrid man was not without a club at 31 without good reason, he had suffered badly with knee injuries.

So it was almost too good to be true when he was brought in and started playing like he could still be of use to the Spanish champions, adjusting to the Premier League with ease.

It now appears the good times are over for Fulham and Diarra, or at least suspended until further notice, with news he was injured on international duty for Mali and will be out for several months, in all likelihood for the rest of the season.

For a Fulham midfield which lost Danny Murphy over the summer and Moussa Dembele only recently, it is a blow they could have done without.

The club do have options, but the sighting of Chris Baird in midfield against West Brom underlined their situation, although marvellously the Northern Irishman put in a superb performance, and could just reinvent himself there by playing on a regular basis rather than as a stop-gap.

More likely though, the attention will now shine on another player picked up in similar circumstances to Diarra, Greek veteran Giorgos Karagounis, even if it was a financial issue with his previous club rather than injury which led to his availability.

The 35-year-old signed for Fulham 10 days ago after being released by Panathaniakos, after they were unable to agree a new contract with him. The Greek Super League's loss is the Premier League's gain, with the combative Euro 2004 winner bringing his talents to a completely new stage.

Is his age a concern? Yes of course it is, and while he showed he still has what it takes to mix it at the top level, scoring a winner against Russia at Euro 2012, we have all learned by now not to judge a player solely on the back of an international tournament.

Even so, Karagounis' pedigree, more than a decade of Champions League experience and spells at Inter Milan and Benfica, shows he can bring a lot to the club, and he is a leader on the pitch, just the type of character Fulham need to steer them through any potentially troubling patch of form.

The injury to Diarra means Fulham won't want to wait around forever for the Greek to get match fit, and will want him ready sooner rather than later.

It may well be that this weekend at away to Wigan is just too soon, and last month's defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup means there is no such tie to give him a run out in next week, and the following weekend would be a baptism of fire at home to Manchester City, but perhaps that is exactly the type of clash Karagounis is made for, and he will surely relish such a stage.

Whenever he makes his debut, Fulham should thank their manager for making such a shrewd signing, because with Diarra's injury, it is looking like a better piece of business than even first thought. 

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