After a mixed start to their 2021/22 campaign, Reading will be hoping to bring in a couple of players during the January transfer window in their quest to secure a respectable league finish next May.
Although some outsiders may be expecting the club to compete for the play-offs against after spending the majority of 2020/21 in the top six and finishing seventh last term, the departures of Michael Olise and Omar Richards, along with their summer transfer embargo and an expected points deduction on the horizon for breaching financial rules has lowered expectations at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
Currently in the bottom half of the table, survival will be the main aim before a potential rebuild in the summer, with several first-teamers out of contract next summer and some of those not expected to remain at the club beyond then.
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This makes the Royals’ outgoing business in January perhaps more interesting than potential signings during the winter window – and there are three players in particular who will be of focus as we approach the next calendar year.
We take a look at them in this following piece as we discuss some of the hottest Reading-related transfer talking points.
Swift heading for the exit door?
Midfielder John Swift looks almost certain to be leaving the Select Car Leasing Stadium next summer, with his contract at the club expiring at the end of the 2021/22 campaign and a contract extension looking unlikely.
After having a successful first season in Berkshire, playing a big part in leading the club to the play-off final with eight goals and seven assists during the 2016/17 season, he signed a new five-year deal during that summer at a time when the Royals had the finances to offer out lucrative contracts.
Considering this and interest from the likes of Burnley, Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, the club are unlikely to be able to offer the ex-Chelsea man contract extension terms he would be happy with.
This leaves the club with a tough choice: sell him in January to generate some money for his services while they can or keep him to drag themselves away from any potential relegation danger but risk losing him for free in 2022.
Officials at the club will need to make this decision and set out their strategy before the winter window opens.
What next for Laurent?
Another midfielder whose contract in Berkshire expires in the summer is Josh Laurent, who was exceptional during his first season in the Championship last term but has endured a mixed spell of form since August.
Despite seeing a few underwhelming performances from the 26-year-old, the club would ideally want him to extend his stay at the club as one of the first names on the teamsheet and on his day, one of the most effective midfielders in the second tier.
One club that were reportedly interested in his services during the summer was Nottingham Forest, who even went as far as launching a bid in an attempt to lure him to the East Midlands, an approach that was rejected by the Reds’ Championship rivals.
Scottish Premiership champions Rangers and Premier League outfit Brighton and Hove Albion were also reported to be interested in the former Shrewsbury Town man back in May, so it wouldn’t be inconceivable to see bids come in for him once again when 2022 comes around.
This leaves the Royals in a similar situation to the one they currently face with Swift. Cashing in on him may not be the end of the world with Danny Drinkwater, Andy Rinomhota, Tom Dele-Bashiru and Dejan Tetek available as options for the remainder of the campaign.
But with Drinkwater and Dele-Bashiru likely to return to their parent clubs on the expiration of their loan spells, this would leave the club with little options in the middle of the park when the end of the season arrives. Rinomhota is also out of contract at the end of the campaign.
Puscas decision – cash in or retain?
According to Sport.ro, Romanian side CFR Cluj are lining up a move for striker George Puscas, who has failed to get on the scoresheet in any of his 17 appearances for Reading so far this season.
As per this same report, the English side would demand €3m for the 25-year-old if a move was made to lure him away from the club, potentially allowing them to recruit a striker or two in return to provide competition to the likes of Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite.
The latter two are currently out injured, with Joao prone to injuries and Meite’s ruptured ACL likely to keep him out until the next calendar year.
This makes it a difficult decision whether cash in on their only fit, senior striker or not – and many would argue the transfer restrictions the Royals are placed under during the winter window will depend on what decision they will take if a bid of €3m or more is received.
Jahmari Clarke’s brace against Birmingham City will give manager Veljko Paunovic confidence that the 18-year-old can step up, but there’s still a long way to go in his development and they can’t yet rely on the teenager to start every week.
But if Puscas’ sale means they are permitted to bring a replacement or two in, don’t be surprised to see them sell the Romanian.