Fulham boss Roy Hodgson has praised American star Clint Dempsey for becoming a better player since he took charge at Craven Cottage.
Dempsey played a major part in helping Fulham finish seventh last season to earn them a place in the inaugural Europa League.
But the United States star hardly had time to catch his breath before being involved in the Confederations Cup with his home nation during the summer.
Despite making a shaky start to the group stages with defeats to Italy and Brazil, the States were able to dramatically qualify for the knockout rounds courtesy of a 3-0 win over Egypt, a game in which Dempsey scored.
A win against Spain in the semi-final, and another goal from Dempsey, set up the final against Brazil.
The Fulham striker found the net again but despite helping his side to a 2-0 lead, Brazil somehow clawed their way back into the game to win 3-2.
But Dempsey’s performances for both Fulham and the States has earned him much praise from Hodgson, who has been impressed with the player’s progress and was keen to give him as much rest as possible following a marathon year.
“The element of fatigue we can’t write off,” explained Hodgson. “We gave him three complete weeks of rest between the Confederations Cup and pre-season training. He didn’t come to Australia with us.
“Is three weeks enough between a really demanding Premier League season, a demanding Confederations Cup and then kicking off again in Europe and the league? I don’t think so. I think in an ideal world a player should get five to six weeks complete break.
“During the 18 months I’ve been at the Club he’s got better and better. Of course his performances in the Confederations Cup and not least his performances for Fulham in helping us get to seventh place are proof that he’s actually becoming a better footballer.”