By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Martin Jol could be edging towards the Fulham exit door as his relationship with the club reaches breaking point, Goal.com understands.
The Dutchman is at loggerheads with senior officials over his contract negotiations and the club’s recruitment strategy amid concern they could get sucked into a relegation battle.
Schalke have targeted Jol to take over as their new manager in the summer after dismissing Huub Stevens last month and appointing youth-team coach Jens Keller in an interim capacity until the end of the season.
The former Tottenham, Ajax and Hamburg manager, whose current deal expires in June, has said publicly that Fulham have approached him about activating the clause in his contract that would extend his stay at Craven Cottage until the summer of 2014.
But Goal.com understands that, following early negotiations last October, Fulham have held back from offering the extension and Jol’s position now is under greater threat than at any point in his 18-month reign.
“Relations are strained between the manager and the board,” a source explained. “They are not agreeing on a lot of things.”
One area of contention is believed to be recruitment, with Fulham concerned that Jol has stockpiled the squad with too many attacking midfielders.
Senior club officials believe there is a need for more cover at full-back, in central midfield and in the goalkeeping position, where incumbent Mark Schwarzer has turned 40 and is out of contract in the summer.
“Fulham want him to be realistic and focus on the right players here and now,” the source added. “Martin has a scattergun approach. He has accumulated a lot of creative attacking players in comparison to quality defenders or players who can protect the defence.”
Fulham’s targets this month include Jordan Henderson, Yann M’Vila and Derek Boateng in midfield, and Jack Butland in goal, while the Londoners have also enquired about taking Andrey Arshavin on loan from Arsenal. However, there is no deal in the immediate pipeline.
The club have made two January signings, but both midfielder Chris David, 19, and versatile defender-cum-midfielder Noe Baba, 16, are regarded as players for the future rather than first-teamers.
Fulham have won three of their last 16 matches, and only two of their last 15 league games, since beginning the season strongly.
It is believed there is no immediate danger of Jol being dismissed but owner and chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed will not hesitate to pull the trigger if league results do not improve and Fulham plummet down the table.
Fulham are aware of Schalke’s interest in Jol and believe it is being used as leverage by the 57-year-old to get his own way on both his contract issue and potential transfer targets.
“All three options are possible at the moment,” the source added. “One, things don’t improve and he gets sacked; two, ride with it until the end of the season and he signs a new contract; three, get to the end of the season and he signs a contract with Schalke.”