Fulham boss Marco Silva says the club needs to do more to prevent its best young academy players from walking away for nominal fees.
The Whites face a daunting Premier League season opener against Liverpool on Saturday with the Reds likely to have former Fulham youngsters Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho in their squad.
Both players are regarded as two of the best young talents at Anfield, with Carvalho joining Elliott, who left Fulham in 2019, in June following a fantastic debut season in the Championship.
Fulham received a fee that could rise to £4m for Elliott that was set by a tribunal, with Carvalho exiting for £5m in compensation at the end of his contract.
Silva maintains that had been in the job 12 months sooner then his fellow countryman would still be at Craven Cottage.
“We are Fulham Football Club and we should keep them here because they are from our academy and it is hard for us to see them doing well a different club, even if it is a bigger club,” he said.
“It is difficult to keep players at 16 or 17 but after that, when they are professionals, we have to do it better.
“I cannot speak about the past but I think if I was here one year more then I would have got Fabio to sign a contract with us.
“With this type of talent we have to give them the conditions to be better every single season and it is a big step for us as a club.”
Silva insists his club are learning from its previous mistakes, like allowing the likes of Djed Spence and Matt O’Riley, who both were recently sold for big money by Middlesbrough and MK Dons respectively, to walk away for free.
Last month promising young midfielder Tyrese Francois signed a new three-year deal after looking set to leave, and young striker Luke Stansfield agreed a new contract in January.
“It’s not just players leaving to Liverpool, we can mention one or two more as well,” Silva said.
“Everything starts from a strategy, and football is changing and clubs want to keep their own talent inside.
“When they become professional players we have to be much more effective in retaining the talent, not just in terms of building your squad but also from a financial point of view to protect the club.
“Everybody knows the path of Fabio and if he was on a three or four-year contract the fee would have been completely different.
“We are speaking and working on this because everyone realises it is something we have to change and that will help the club be stronger.
“I am not saying the club didn’t try but for various situations the players didn’t want to renew.
“We have to protect the club as much as we can.”