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Why Reading Should Sell Michael Olise In January

Michael Olise leaving Reading is not a question of if, but when. The club has to decide whether they should cash in over January, or wait until summer to offload their most valuable asset.

A huge part of the equation comes down to two simple questions. 

  1. Will Reading make the play-offs this year? 
  2. Is Olise integral to that chance?

I imagine if you answer yes to the first, you're answering yes to both. After blistering early season form, the side have only won 4 of their last 14, and need to kick into gear to revive their promotion hopes. There are obviously mitigating factors, with injuries to key pieces of the squad. Many are coming to the end of their recovery period, but with Moore injured and Richards also likely to leave it's hard to say we're in a great position. It's also unlikely that Lucas Joao manages to stay fit for the rest of the season, and he's probably the most crucial piece to the puzzle.

With John Swift coming back into the team Reading have a ready made replacement in a player who would walk into most, if not all, teams in the league. It's hard to know how the manager will look to use Swift, and our only hint was the midfielder playing in a more advanced role in the brief minutes he's managed so far in 2020/21.

Then there's the fact that Veljko Paunovic, rightly, is not focused on increasing the youngster's value. Despite leading the league in assists the 19-year-old is not guaranteed minutes under the current regime, something which is evidently causing tension. Could that tension overflow, and start costing minutes? Or maybe Olise will pick up an injury that hinders a move when the season is done. There are a myriad of pathways where Reading don't increase the value, or can't sell Olise in summer - where there are no such obstructions currently.

Selling Olise could allow the team to invest in areas that are badly needed. The lack of wingers is a heavily covered subject, and the income would easily allow for additions. Whether the owners would use the money sensibly is up for debate. Reading failed to improve the wide areas during their first year, and were hamstrung by financial issues over summer that saw them fail to bring in Rodrigo Riquelme to help plug that gap. But, crucially, the signing of Riquelme would have been a sensible one.

And those financial issues should be enough of an incentive by themselves. Consistently over the last few years Reading have fallen foul of Financial Fair Play rules. They need money in the bank. Frustratingly it's difficult to tell whether even that would be enough given the owner's tendancy to splash the cash, but it would certainly go some way to easing short term fears.

Of course all this is reliant on Reading even having an option, i.e. there's no release clause in the contract that would take it out of their hands. To be clear, I'm not advocating to throw away a key asset for nothing. In fact, we should only accept an offer that truly reflects his value. What we shouldn't do is gamble on getting a better offer in the summer, or keeping him to try to make the play-offs, if the money is on the table.

Would I hate seeing Olise in a Reading shirt for the rest of the year? No. Would I be sceptical of turning down large amounts of income for that to happen? You bet.

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