Mitrovic

Fulham owner Tony Khan has revealed he needed to convince Aleksandar Mitrovic to stay at the club last year after they dropped down into the Championship.

The west London club were relegated from the top flight in 2020-21 after finishing 11 points adrift of safety under Scott Parker.

After deciding to replace Parker with Marco Silva, Khan, who also owns wrestling company AEW, wanted to prioritise keeping Mitrovic at Craven Cottage, but has admitted that this was a tough task and he had to ‘beg’ the Serbian striker to stay before he signed his new contract.

‘One of the most important things I think we did in the beginning, as we were making the transition with coaching, and right as Marco was coming in, I was working really hard to keep Mitro at the club. And I really basically had to beg him,’ Khan said in an exclusive interview with Sportsmail.

‘And even then he had to be re-committed to Fulham. He had to be re-committed and we had to find our way in the summer of 2021.

‘And I remember we’d been back on the road touring for AEW for a month, and I think I was in Houston on August 18, and I talked to Mitro in the dressing room, and I was just so excited because he’d just signed his new contract.

‘And I was like yelling, and people around the corner thought something was wrong. I was like: ‘no, it’s a good thing!”

Mitrovic went on to prove his value to Fulham the following season, scoring a record-breaking 43 goals in the Championship to help the club win the title and secure promotion back to the Premier League.

The 28-year-old has been a major hit at Fulham throughout his time at the club, scoring 105 goals in 189 appearances across all competitions.

Khan is preparing for AEW’s last pay-per-view of the year on Saturday night when Full Gear goes down in Newark, New Jersey. The 40-year-old can give the show his full attention with the World Cup shutting down

However, things could have been very different, as Khan has admitted it was a struggle convincing Newcastle to part ways with Mitrovic in 2018.

‘When Mitro came over, that was one of the most important things I think we ever did,’ Khan added.

‘I think it was in January 2018, taking Mitro on loan from Newcastle, and then in the summer of 2018, people say I did a lot of crazy stuff in the summer of 2018, but I think one thing we definitely did right was purchase Mitro’s contract from Newcastle.

‘Believe me, it wasn’t easy. Mike Ashley and I went head-to-head on that one, big time. That was a good thing we got it done.’

Since returning to the Premier League this season, Fulham have taken 19 points from their opening 15 games to sit ninth in the table as the domestic season pauses for the World Cup.

The Serbian forward is a combative presence when leading the line for the The Cottagers, but Khan won’t be putting his prized asset in an AEW ring anytime soon.

‘I was just sitting with Mitrovic and we were just talking a couple of weeks ago and I was telling him: ‘Everywhere I go, people ask me about Mitro wrestling’. There really does have to be something to it.

‘But the last thing you ever want is for Mitro to get in the ring. It’s a very physical sport, wrestling, and [to] pick up a knock… So maybe after the football days, I’d love to get Mitro in the ring.’

Mitrovic has spearheaded the side’s attack, scoring nine goals in 12 league matches, but has also been ably supported by the rest of the squad, and Khan is excited by the club’s development.

‘It’s tremendous to see the results this season have been strong, and we want to keep fighting. We have a lot of goals to hopefully achieve at the end of the season, and it’s off to a very strong start,’ he continued.

‘We have learned a lot, but we’ve had some success over the years, and I think finding a way to make it translate to the Premier League and also managing to keep the stability in the squad while adding new faces, it’s a challenge to find that balance, but I really believe we’ve found a great balance.

‘I think so many of the new players have come in and really helped the squad find their way in the Premier League. It’s also been a huge effort from some of the players that have been with the squad, some of them for years. And it’s really neat to see the evolution of the squad under Marco.’

AEW Full Gear takes place on Saturday, November 19 in New Jersey, US. It will be available on FITE for fans outside of the US.

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