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Understanding Raw Roy

As we head into a summer of uncertainty, Marc Mayo tries to understand the situation of Royston Drenthe. The riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a Reading FC training top.

Mike Hewitt

"He is a jackass, but he is talented" Barack Obama on Kanye West.

Royston Drenthe is an incredibly hard to define character. He is talented, but unlike superstar rapper Kanye West I don't think "Jackass" fits... He lacks the playful stupidity.
The best word I can come to is contradictory.
Accused of laziness on the pitch, but swears ruthless dedication off it...
Typified as the over-rated footballer that didn't care enough to succeed, but typifies the raw talent of a player who became so highly rated it crumbled him to dust...

A brief look at his career thus far and this keeps coming back, I remember him being part of the incredibly impressive Dutch U21 team that won the 2007 European Championship. Our Royston was voted Best Player in a tournament consisting of current top-flight European stars as Giorgio Chiellini, Branislav Ivanovic, Nani, and *cough* golden boot runner-up Leroy Lita.

That earned him a move to Real Madrid, not that we couldn't not know that... That transfer remains the only notable achievement of Drenthe, the footballer. Well, to be fair he did score a 40-yarder on debut...

Drenthe's Madrid experience involved storming out of the training ground, being booed off the pitch to spark anxiety issues, and asking not to be picked as he failed to live up to the new Roberto Carlos tag.

A loan spell at La Liga team Hercules started well, but he fell out of favour after arriving back a week late from the winter break and his side ended up relegated.
A loan spell at Everton the following season, 2011/12, started well but he was given compassionate leave following rumours he had fallen to problems involving drink, and he was told to stay away from the club. Drenthe ended the season in the headlines again, accusing Lionel Messi of racism.
What next? A season with Russian outfit Aliana Vladikavkaz. Guess what? It started well, but Royston got injured and his team got relegated.

Now he finds himself at The Madejski. And you know what? He started well. Impressing at home to Watford, delivered a last-minute assist in the win over Leeds and generally impressed with great skill and tenacity. The following videos evidence this, skip to the 33rd second of the first one for one of the moves of the season...

He offered tricks aplenty, as shown in his threatening display at Bolton.

So where did it all go wrong? Let's start on the pitch.
After the Leeds game Drenthe was walking wounded, and citing injury problems wouldn't appear for some time. By the time he'd return, Reading had struggled to push on in a one-up front system. This caused big problems for Royston in his role as a winger; brutally exposing his full-back with his lack of fitness and a non-plussed desire to track back, he was made to look dreadfully lazy in comparison to hard-working club captain Jobi Mcanuff. His brief flurry of appearances, ending up in goals against Brighton and Leeds, was temporary respite from off-field problems.
He said he'd tell us what happened one day, but for now had "turned a corner" to quote Nigel Adkins.

As his season, and then Reading's, fizzled out prematurely the truth seemed to have bubbled up on Drenthe's instagram. Here our Number 12 can often be seen in the gym (although his personal trainer is never a Reading employee of some kind), with his kids, or just having lots of money.
But things took a turn for the interesting as he proclaimed he was forced out of the club, following the disappearance of Anton Zingarevich. Things got even weirder when he offered to meet a fan to explain the situation.

So where does it leave us? His wages are too high for a Championship club, that seems undeniable. His contract runs out in a year, and his performances have not hit the heights of our other high-earner Pavel Pogrebnyak- despite which many think we'll still struggle to chop Pav off the wage bill.

Drenthe's career is defined by early success. A prodigy as a youngster, he has moved on to succeed with early patches of form but ultimately go on to upset his employer in one way or another, leaving under a cloud at almost every club. For all the claims and rumours about his weight, personal 'issues' and dedication across his career, there have been moments of brilliance and talent that made many think he could nail down some consistency at Reading. Sadly that has not been the case, and we face the facts that unless we can mutually terminate a contract (unlikely) he will have to sit out the remaining year of his deal.

This is unideal, our finances have been called 'critical', and Drenthe's performances have also blown hot and very cold.
So, unless we can find a willing investor in our unreliable talent, or spark him into action when he knows he's here no matter what- a la The Pog- we'll have to continue spectating the Drenthe show.
Filled with talent and an apparent will to succeed, perhaps he'll thrive in an underdog role that he has never before found himself in. That would be the ultimate riposte to those who doubt him, but in many ways sum him up as the most contradictory footballer to play for Reading Football Club in the 21st Century.