January 31, 2018 finally gave Fulham a weapon they've been crying out for in the past season and a half - a striker that has a presence in the box and score goals.
That weapon's name is Aleksandar Mitrovic, and two goals in his past two games has endeared him to the Craven Cottage faithful since his arrival from Newcastle United not a month ago.
Big, physical and with an eye for goal, the 23-year-old Serbian has added a new dimension to Fulham's attack, finally giving them an outlet to feed off the service provided by the likes of Ryan Fredericks, Matt Targett and Tom Cairney.
Mitrovic will be looking towards the World Cup in the summer, hoping to get there via SW6, but at the moment his sole focus is on the Cottagers, and the striker believes he needs Fulham as Fulham needs him.
He said: “My first target is to get promoted with Fulham directly first, if we can, the second thing is the World Cup.
“I will leave World Cup until the end of the season, but at the moment I’m really focused with Fulham, the team and my game and try improve in training and help the team every game I can.
“It’s a good feeling to be here and I am looking forward to every game and I want to play and get on the pitch, this is the reason I’m here.
“I think Fulham needs me and I need Fulham, we both need each other and I’m really happy.”
Now Mitrovic is under the guidance of fellow countryman Slavisa Jokanovic, who managed Serbian side Partizan whilst the striker was coming through the youth ranks at the club.
The Fulham head coach and Mitrovic spoke over messaging app WhatsApp on Deadline Day after the striker's move to Anderlecht fell through, and after chatting with the recruitment team a move for the Newcastle man was sanctioned.
And the opportunity to work under Jokanovic was one of the main reasons he decided on a move to Fulham, even going as far as to say it's starting to 'feel like he's home'.
“We have a really good connection, we are from the same country and he was a really big player in Serbia and now he is one of the best coaches that Serbia has," he said.
“This is one of the reasons why I came here - I know he will understand me and I will understand him and this style that he play at Fulham for two/three years is really good and a style that I think every striker likes.
“This is reason why I came and I’m really happy here, the team helped me in the beginning and I feel like I’m home and I really, really enjoy it here.”
Despite dropping down to the second tier of English football, Mitrovic still backs his ability to score goals.
Having played in the Champions League with Anderlecht and in the top flight with Newcastle, Fulham's new striker still believes he can play and score amongst Europe's elite.
“Of course, I already played at that level, in my first season at Newcastle I scored ten goals as a 21-year-old," he added.
“Okay we got relegated but I think I showed people I can play that level, but this season I couldn’t show because I didn’t play a lot.
“I know my qualities, I believe in myself and I know I have qualities to play not just Premier League, but Champions League level because I say I already played Champions League and Premier League and I saw how they play football and I know I have quality.
“But I’m not going to think about Premier League, I’m a Fulham player and focused on Fulham and every game here.
“I’m really happy after a long time, I’m on the pitch, for the first time I don't know how long I play 90 minutes and I really enjoyed the moment and I want to stay here and help Fulham get promoted.
“This is the only target in my head.”
Talking to Mitrovic without the mention of Newcastle is near impossible, but after the Serbian completed his move to the Cottage Rafa Benitez challenged him to score 25 goals before his return to St James' Park.
Of course, 25 goals before May is a bit far-fetched, and Mitrovic admits he will wait and see what happens in the summer with regards to his future in the north east, but his target for now is to continue scoring for his new side.
He said: “I don’t think about Rafa, about Newcastle, I am a Fulham player, I’m here and want to get Fulham promoted - this is our target.
“My target is of course to score as many as I can, but first my target is to try help the team every day.
“Of course I wish Newcastle all the best, I hope they will stay in the league, they deserve it because they have a good team, good fans and a good manager.
“I hope they will stay in the league and in the summer we will see what happens but I’m happy here, focused here and looking forward to playing every game.
“My only target is to help Fulham to get promoted.”
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