It’s safe to say that it’s not quite been the loan spell that FC Porto loanee Thomas Esteves would have originally had in mind whilst with Reading FC.
The young full-back signed for the Championship side on loan for the 2020/21 season from the Portuguese side, and will have been keen to make a name for himself with the Royals this term.
Reading are currently sat fourth in the second-tier standings, and will be hoping that they can extend their unbeaten run in the Championship for as long as possible, with promotion into the Premier League a real possibility this season under the management of Veljko Paunovic.
We take a look at Esteves’ loan spell in more detail and see what the future holds for the right-back.
How’s it gone so far?
Esteves has made 20 appearances in all competitions this season, although he has been restricted to just ten starts in their league campaign so far.
Tom Holmes has been Paunovic’s first choice right-back for much of the 2020/21 campaign, and Esteves has often found game time hard to come by in his natural position in defence.
When he has stepped off the substitutes bench in recent weeks, he’s often been trusted to play in a more advanced role further forward.
That almost resulted in him scoring his first goal for the club against AFC Bournemouth, but he was kept out by Asmir Begovic in a 3-1 win for the Berkshire-based side over the Cherries.
Esteves was an unused substitute in their most recent match against Stoke City, in a match where the Royals were forced to settle for a point at the bet365 Stadium in a goalless draw between the two teams.
What issues does he face?
The main issue that Esteves is currently faced with at this moment in time is competition for his place in the starting XI.
As previously mentioned, the right-back has struggled for consistent game time in the Reading team, with the performances of Tom Holmes keeping him out of the starting XI for the majority of this year’s campaign.
Andy Yiadom has also returned to the squad from injury in recent weeks, so it’ll be even more competition for Esteves, and it’ll be interesting to see how he copes with that.
Competition for places is the ideal dilemma to have for a manager though, and Paunovic will be hoping that he can see the best out of all of his players, as the Royals push for promotion into the Premier League.
Reading are set to return to action in midweek when they take on Brentford at the Madejski Stadium, in what is certain to be a tricky test. The Bees are currently sat second in the Championship table, and will be in a confident mood heading into the game, with Thomas Frank’s side recently beating Middlesbrough 4-1 at the Riverside.
It remains to be seen as to whether will start this one though, with the strong performances from Tom Holmes keeping the 18-year-old out of the starting XI for the time being.
They also kept a clean sheet against Stoke City in their last match, so it seems unlikely that Paunovic will want to make changes to his defence unless an injury occurs.
With Andy Yiadom also back in the first-team squad after a lengthy injury lay-off, Esteves will know that he needs to take any opportunity that is presented to him this season, even that is in a more advanced role further forward given his attacking style of play.