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By ESPN Staff
May 22, 2008

Schwarzer snubs Boro deal to sign for Fulham

Fulham's offer of a two-year contract was the bait for Australia international goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer to quit Middlesbrough after more than a decade.

The 35-year-old snubbed interest from the likes of Juventus and Bayern Munich to join the London team's bid to make their mark in the Premier League next season.

Manager Roy Hodgson's outlay of around £9million after replacing Lawrie Sanchez in December finally saved Fulham from the drop on the last day of the season but Hodgson is determined it will not be that close again and has promised a raft of signings this summer.

Schwarzer is the first after he turned down Boro's offer of a new deal at the Riverside.

Hodgson has made his first priority to shore up the Fulham defence but it could mean the departure of former Finland international keeper Antti Niemi, although he still has a year left on his contract at Craven Cottage.

American veteran Kasey Keller, who replaced injury-prone Niemi as first choice towards the end of the season, is now out of contract and expected to retire to his home in California.

Schwarzer, who has jetted off to Australia to join their preparations for the start of World Cup qualifying with a friendly against Ghana, said: 'I had a few options, including staying at Middlesbrough, but I'm happy with my choice and thought it was best to sort it out sooner rather than later before the the build-up to the qualifiers.

'I don't think anybody can say anything negative about my stay at Middlesbrough. I fulfilled every contract I had with them and now I'm looking forward to coming done to London and joining the Fulham lads at pre-season training.'

Schwarzer, who began his professional career aged 19 with Marconi Stallions in the Australian National Soccer League, also had spells in Germany with Dynamo Dresden and FC Kaiserslautern then joined Bradford City before switching to Middlesbrough in April 1997.

He added: 'I felt the time was right for me to move on, and when the opportunity came to talk to Roy Hodgson about his plans it didn't take long to make a decision about joining Fulham even though there were some good offers from big clubs in Europe.'

Hodgson told Fulham's official website: 'After stiff competition from a number of high-profile European clubs, I am exceptionally pleased that Mark has chosen to come to us.

'His credentials in both the domestic and international arenas are impeccable, which is reinforced by the calibre of clubs that wanted to sign him.

'We have some work to do off the field this summer to enable us to compete next season in the Premier League and to avoid the position we found ourselves in a short time ago.

'Therefore I am very pleased that Mark will be joining us and helping with the task ahead.'

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate has put keepers Ross Turnbull and Brad Jones on red alert.

Southgate had hoped Schwarzer would extend his stay beyond the 11 years he has spent on Teesside, but ultimately had to admit defeat.

However, unlike last summer, when he lost strikers Mark Viduka and Ayegbeni Yakubu and was left with a major hole in his squad, he is confident he has the men on hand to plug the gap.

Southgate said: 'I felt it would have been good to have retained Mark's experience because he was always a good example for younger players.

'With that in mind, we made him a fair offer, but he decided to take up a different offer and move on.

'I enjoyed playing alongside and managing Mark because he was always an outstanding professional.

'He was a very consistent goalkeeper for us for more than 11 years, so he deserves great credit for that, though the club has looked after him too.

'I have wanted to see what Brad and Ross are capable of and they will now get the opportunity to show me.

'They will come back for pre-season training on an equal footing with the first-choice goalkeeper's shirt up for grabs.

'It's up to them to take that opportunity.'

Schwarzer, a £1.5million signing from Bradford in February 1997, made 446 appearances for the club and was in the side that lifted the Carling Cup in 2004.

He also secured their first qualification for Europe via the league with a late penalty save from Robbie Fowler at Manchester City on the final day of the 2004-05 season.

Turnbull, 23, and 26-year-old Australian Jones may now get their chance after the end of an era.

Boro chief executive Keith Lamb said: 'I think Mark and Middlesbrough could probably do with a change.

'We did offer him a new two-year deal, but he has chosen to go elsewhere, which is obviously his prerogative.

'We wish Mark well in his new career at Fulham, but his move creates a fantastic opportunity for either Brad Jones or Ross Turnbull to succeed him as our new first-choice goalkeeper.'

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