Clint Dempsey’s equaliser against Chelsea last night proved a number of things, but most prominent was that he belongs on the Premier League’s biggest stage.
The American midfielder is having his best season since joining Fulham in 2007 and is demonstrating his qualities more succinctly with every performance.
Roberto di Matteo is doing his best to solidify what was a leaky Blues defence but it can be no surprise that Dempsey managed to breach the Stamford Bridge club’s rear guard at Craven Cottage.
It was the 29-year-old’s 16th league goal of the season and he is currently setting a new record for goals scored by an individual player in a single league season for the Cottagers.
With the age he is at, Dempsey is most probably demonstrating the form of a man in his prime and his contractual situation means he should be a prime transfer target for any one of the Premier League’s bigger clubs.
Fulham have turned this season into a respectable one for themselves in recent months but they are likely realistic at the prospects of convincing their leading scorer to stay beyond his current deal, which will have a year left in the summer.
You would imagine a big club is considering a bid for the USA international due to his current purple patch and the relatively good price a player of his age could command with so little time left on his contract.
Dempsey does mot only provide goals, he is a constant dynamic presence around the opposition penalty box and has the ability to pick a through ball.
Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have been linked with Dempsey in the past and either of these clubs would be a good move for him.
Arsene Wenger’s side have been overly reliant on captain Robin van Persie for goals this season – though recent weeks have bucked the trend seen for most of the season – and the American would certainly help out in that regard.
He may not have been the right style of midfielder in the Gunners previous sides, but the more direct approach they have adopted throughout the season would suit him well.
Flexibility in positioning is another attribute Dempsey would provide, with him being able to play a more advanced role, as well as in a more traditional central midfield position.
It does not end with the north London clubs either, Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United could make good use of a player in Dempsey’s mould.
He would allow the Old Trafford boss greater flexibility in the centre of the pitch in terms of formation, with Dempsey’s attacking threat possibly being heightened by advancing his position should things not be going so well.
He would also allow Wayne Rooney the chance to get further up the pitch by replacing the England man in the support striker role, though this would obviously be a secondary option as Rooney’s creativity in that position has a lot to do with United’s ever more likely title win.
However, Dempsey’s qualities would most likely be best felt in either Liverpool or the club he has foiled on two occasions so far this season – Chelsea.
Kenny Dalglish’s side are the side most desperate for an added goal threat and the former New England Revolution man’s danger around the box would be complimented with his ability to create threatening situations in and around the area.
The Anfield club do not really have an attacking midfielder who gets into the box regularly and Dempsey’s knack for this would also mean greater support for Luis Suarez, who has often found himself isolated this season.
There are others who should be doing this but so far players such as Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt have not been able to contribute to the club’s scoring tally as readily as some may have expected.
It would not be a bad move for a player who is likely looking for one more big move in his career and his compatibility with Liverpool’s style mean this would probably be a decent signing and less of a gamble than the large sums paid out for Downing, Jordan Henderson and Andy Carroll.
The other goal scorer in the draw at Craven Cottage on Monday night was Frank Lampard, and it is he who Dempsey could possibly replace.
The England midfielder tucked away a penalty late in the first half, which was his 150th goal in the Premier League, but it would be hard to deny such an illustrious career is in its twilight days.
Lampard is nowhere near as mobile as he once was and may have to accept a lesser role in the side come next season, or change his game appropriately to make himself important in other ways.
While Dempsey’s starting position is not quite as deep as Lampard’s, his eye for goal would be a suitable replacement for the Chelsea man’s own scoring exploits.
While they are hardly starved for goals, the Blues have been guilty of isolating their central striker at times in much the same way as Liverpool have.
Wherever he ends up, Dempsey is ready to step up and become a major player in Premier League circles - something the big clubs should recognise.
While not being the most fashionable signing, the American would provide consistency that so many managers crave and at a good price – he will be the bargain of the summer.