Portuguese striker Orlando Sá looks set to sign for Reading from Legia Warsaw for a fee which is rumoured to be € 1.5 million. For a club like Reading who are desperate for any kind of transfer activity, the transfer has been met with a mixture of relief and excitement as finally the club seem to be preparing for the upcoming season. But who is Orlando Sá and is this transfer the right fit for Reading FC?
Sá's career is in many ways one of unfulfilled promise. Starting out at Braga the player made his mark in the Portuguese under-21s with a couple of hat-tricks before moving on to Porto for a fee of 3 million Euros in 2009. Injuries meant Sá was never really able to achieve much at Porto and he eventually joined Fulham in 2011 where Sá also failed to impress - his contract was terminated in the summer of 2012. The last three seasons have been the proverbial last chance saloon for Sá and they have seen him finally live up to expectations, first with regular goals for the Cypriot club Apollon Limassol and most recently for the club from Poland's capital Legia Warsaw.
Sá's time at Legia has been one of highs and lows. The main plus about his stay in Warsaw are the goals he has scored. In his 25 Ekstraklasa (Polish top flight) appearances in the 2014-5 season, Sá scored 13 times - he's certainly not a player to fluff a chance. On the other hand Sá has increasingly shown himself to be a player with an attitude problem. There have been consistent murmurings this season that Legia's manager Henning Berg and Sá do not see eye to eye, and the concrete proof of this is the amount of times Sá has either been on the bench for Legia or left out of match-day squads - indeed 11 of his appearances this season have been as a substitute.
As indicated elsewhere the problems between Berg and Sá could simply be due to Berg's prediliction for a 4-5-1 formation with a mobile false-nine rather than the classic front-man play that Sá provides. While this may be true there have been clear examples recently of petulant behaviour from Sá both on and off the pitch. In the last match of the season against Górnik Zabrze Sá refused to wait to be substituted after signalling to the bench he was carrying an injury, he then proceeded to sulk in the changing rooms - refusing to collect the league runners-up medal that Legia had won with his teammates. This reaction angered fans and club authorities alike, and it was clear that Sá would not play for Legia again.
In terms of style of play, Sá has the potential to be a success at Reading. He is strong, good at holding the ball up, decent with his feet, and can score goals both on the ground and in the air. While he did not play as regularly as he would have liked for Legia, when he did he more often than not took the goal scoring chances that came his way. Reading fans might question Sá's rate of goals in a relatively unknown league, can the striker play at Championship level? In my opinion he definitely has it in him to be a success in England, firstly (as a regular watcher of both leagues) the Polish top flight is of approximately the same standard as the Championship, secondly Sá (although not always starting) was an important part of a Legia side which topped its Europa League group last autumn. Finally Sá will have something to prove in England after his failure at Fulham, who knows - this could be his last chance of playing in a top European league - that is if Reading get promoted or Premier League scouts notice him.
It is intriguing to consider what Steve Clarke has in mind for his new striker. Sá is a classic centre forward and in some ways duplicates what we already have in Pavel Pogrebnyak, although Sá is certainly a better finisher than the Russian. Can the two play together in a 4-4-2? I think that this option definitely should be tried by Clarke, although both of them are classic number nines they are both good on the floor and have decent awareness. They undoubtedly have the intelligence and strength to scare Championship defences. I would also advise Clarke to start Sá due to the Portuguese player's outsized ego, were Sá to end up on the bench like at Legia I'd worry about him disrupting the balance of the Reading changing room.
Reading's purchase of Sá has the potential to be a great acquisition, especially if Pogrebnyak and Sá click on the pitch. If not, then expect the Portuguese striker to stir up trouble and leave in a huff in twelve months time. As Reading fans we of course hope the former scenario to turn out to be correct.
Thanks to Chris for the post and you can read more of his musing on Polish football at Rightbankwarsaw.