Jimmy Kebe. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes frustrating, sometimes our best player, sometimes our worst, always inconsistent. The 'Malian Magician' has reportedly refused to sign a new contract at Reading as Nicky Hammond told the Reading Post:
"With Jimmy we have made him an extremely good offer for this football club. However, the feedback I have had is that he won’t sign it."
So, it's at this point we consider our options. After the jump I'll reveal my thoughts on the situation.
Kebe has always been an enigma. Even when he first signed, Coppell was playing him on the right but the fans had read that he had been playing on the left whilst he was at Lens. His performances coupled with this uncertainty led to some criticisms of Coppell. A few years on and those that criticised Coppell may be eating humble pie. The second half of last season saw Kebe step up as one of our key players in getting us to the play-off final, yet this season he has been injured, off form and off colour. When the news came out that he had refused a new contract I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was thinking "oh, that explains it".
In my eyes, Reading have three realistic options.
1. Offer a new and improved contract offer
One of the reasons that Kebe hasn't signed the current contract offer is because his representatives feel that he deserves a bigger salary than is offered. As we all know, finances aren't Reading's strong point. Hammond, McDermott, Madejski and any other Royals staff will tell you that we are self-sufficient, paying off debts by selling our best players and bringing in cheaper alternatives with potential to improve. However, if Hammond et al are serious about keeping Kebe, then perhaps the only option they have is to offer him the wages he wants.
Pro: Kebe signs on.
Con: We offer wages we're unwilling to give to an inconsistent player.
2. Play the waiting game
Another option is to play the waiting game in the hope that Kebe decides to stay. McDermott seems confident that Kebe will stay at the club, telling BBC Radio Berkshire:
"I've spoken to Jimmy, he has told me he loves Reading and wants to stay"
So, apparently there's no problem. He'll sign a new contract in no time.
If not, then we keep him until the end of the season and get as far as possible with one of the best wingers (if on form) in the league.
Pro: Not paying over the odds.
Con: Puts the fans on edge, performances by Kebe criticised.
3. Sell in January
The third and most extravagant option is to sell him in January. Many say that if a player doesn't want to stay, it's for the best to sell him ASAP to keep harmony in the dressing room. He has said that he would like a move back to France before he retires, maybe no the time is right? Would it benefit the club post-January, though? Antonio has been on form at Colchester and Obita is a prodigy with a bright future ahead of him, but are either ready to step up to be behind McAnuff and Robson-Kanu in the pecking order? Selling Kebe for a cut price would weaken our squad considerably and fans will expect reinvestment in another livewire capable of unlocking defences. A tough decision to make, but one that's the right one if Kebe really doesn't want to be here.
Pro: Extra cash incoming and sulking player off our books.
Con: Cut-price cash and a weakened squad unless money reinvested.
What do you think? Are there other options? Is Kebe worth the wages he wants, or do we have the strength in depth to pressure the play-off places without him?