Fulham caretaker boss Scott Parker confirmed the club will not hold Ryan Babel back if he wants to leave following relegation, but would love to see the Dutch winger stay.
The Cottagers are preparing for life back in the Championship next season, which is likely to mean the squad is cut down – both in size and wage bill.
Babel, 32, joined the west London club on a short-term deal during the January transfer window after leaving Besiktas.
The former Ajax and Liverpool player has been linked with a move back to Turkey in the summer.
Babel, though, is keen to remain in the Premier League – with both Newcastle and promotion-chasers Norwich reportedly showing interest.
Parker, himself unsure if he will yet be in charge for the Championship campaign, can empathise with the Dutchman’s dilemma, given the prospect of playing at Euro 2020 is on the horizon.
“I totally understand Ryan Babel. He’s probably in a similar situation to the one I was in at West Ham. I got relegated at West Ham and was in the fold for England at that time,” the Fulham manager said.
“He has been fantastic for us and I think Ryan stated himself that his next move will depend on offers.
“I can totally understand his position and of course I will not be holding him back in any way.”
Parker continued at a press conference reported by the club: “At the same time, Ryan Babel is a player who we like a lot.
“He has been a massive part – certainly since I’ve been here – of what we have been doing.
“If there was an opportunity to sign a player of Ryan Babel’s calibre then he would be top of that list, but at the same time I also understand his situation.”
Fulham may be heading out of the Premier League but they will go in search of a third successive top-flight win when they host relegation-battlers Cardiff.
Parker confirmed midfielder Tom Cairney would be back in contention following the birth of his child.
Andre Schurrle, though, could miss Saturday’s match as his wife is due to have their baby.
Defender Alfie Mawson will be in contention again having recovered from the knee problem which sidelined him since the end of December.
“He has been out for some time so it’s pleasing to have him back,” Parker said.
“He came in over the summer as a big addition to the squad and has struggled a little bit with injuries.
“But he has been back now for the last few weeks, played a couple of Under-23 games, so we are looking forward to getting him involved, hopefully at the weekend.”
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