After months of speculation, it seems that the Omar Richards transfer saga could finally be coming to an end.
Several high-profile outlets have reported that Bayern Munich have agreed a deal to sign the left-back at the end of the season when his contract expires at Reading.
It is difficult to know how to view the move as a fan.
There is undeniably a sense of disappointment in the way the club have allowed this to happen. The fact that one of the club’s best players this season, and an academy graduate, will be let go for free is a bitter pill to swallow.
Sure, Richards may not have go on to spend his whole career at the Madejski Stadium or even stay beyond this season, but it was the perfect opportunity to receive a healthy transfer fee for a player, which Reading have not done for years.
With a minimum £10 million valuation being bandied around, not receiving any money at all for the 23-year-old is a big blow, particularly given the club’s position regarding Financial Fair Play.
Richards’s contract situation has been handled poorly and he should have been offered a new deal a long time ago.
It is representative of a wider problem at Reading too, with Tom McIntyre and Michael Morrison also out of contract in the summer with no word on new deals. As it stands, only five first team players are contracted beyond the end of next season. It needs sorting out.
However, if we put aside the disappointment of letting Richards go for free, it is hard not to feel an immense sense of pride for an academy player earning a move to one of the biggest club’s in the world.
I’m not sure it has quite been appreciated how big of a move this is. A player from Reading’s academy – little old Reading – has been deemed good enough for the European champions. Let that sink in.
It is another testament to the club’s youth system and the regard with which the club is held in developing the next generation of players. Graduates of Reading’s academy have gone on to play in the World Cup, European Championships, Champions League and Premier League – that’s a special statistic.
Outside of England’s elite clubs, there are few better academies to be at in this country than Reading’s and a success story like Richards will provide inspiration to the younger age groups at the club and serve as a reminder that they are at one of the best possible places for their development.
Who knows whether Richards will get much gametime at Bayern – he has the unenviable task of trying to get past one of the world’s best left-backs in Alphonso Davies – but you cannot begrudge him the opportunity to test himself at the highest level against the best players.
It is now down to him to give his all for Reading until the end of the season and not let his performance levels drop.
The club gave him a chance after he was released by Fulham at the age of 16 and have helped him become the player he is now. There would be no better way than to depart RG2 than with promotion to the Premier League.
By Olly Allen