Reading have reportedly been pursuing Sone Aluko all summer and it now seems that they may have finally secured a deal for the Fulham man. Sky Sports are claiming that a £7.5 million fee has been agreed between the two clubs with Aluko set to have a medical in Berkshire today.
Can he lead the line?
But for me, this transfer would be a little underwhelming and also seems a little unneeded. It has been evident for the entire summer that the Royals need a big name striker to lead the line, but Aluko does not fill that criteria. First and foremost, his goalscoring record is less than impressive. In three full seasons in the Championship (two with Hull City and one with Fulham), the 28-year-old has scored only 19 goals in 95 appearances. Would Jaap Stam not want a striker who can hit that tally in just one campaign? It leaves question marks over Aluko’s quality in general. Sure, he seemed to hit form last season as Fulham made a charge for the play-offs, but was that just down to the team doing well rather than his individual talent?
There’s also the issue that the Nigerian isn’t really an out and out striker. Fulham, like Reading, generally play a 4-3-3 formation, but very rarely does Aluko fulfil the central striker role - according to WhoScored, he has played in the forward right position in all four games he has played so far this season. That leads me to think that he would just be a very similar player to Mo Barrow and it would be harsh to take the Gambian out of the team considering he’s made an impressive start to life in the blue and white hoops since his move from Swansea. However, it has to be said that if Aluko were to play as a central striker, there is one promising sign. The last time he spent a full season in that position was a spell at Rangers in 2011/12, and it was actually his best goalscoring campaign to date as he hit the back of the net 12 times in 21 games. But yes, that was the Scottish Premier League.
An extortionate fee?
My other concern with this potential deal is the reported £7.5 million fee. This of course would smash Reading’s transfer record, which has unsurprisingly got a few fans a little excited and perhaps hides that fact that Aluko definitely isn’t worth that much. Now obviously, in today’s market very few players are actually worth their transfer fees, but Aluko’s value seems particularly extortionate considering the aforementioned goal statistics and the fact that he will be turning 30 in 18 months’ time.
It’s also worth pointing out that Aluko has moved clubs four times (permanently) during his career, but only once has he commanded a transfer fee. Apart from when Aberdeen paid Birmingham £50,000 for him in 2008 (when he was 19), his moves to Rangers, Hull and Fulham have all been free transfers. That certainly makes a £7.5 million transfer fee look absolutely crazy.
What also makes that figure look bonkers is the fact that Fulham would reportedly use the money they receive for Aluko to purchase Jota from Brentford for around £6.5 million. So the Cottagers would actually make a profit despite bringing in a younger and better replacement. In truth, it makes it seem as though Reading have been ‘ripped off’ and that Jaap Stam’s public admission that he wanted to sign Aluko has been used against him. Fulham knew that we were desperate to bring him in, so were able just to continually increase the price to a now unreasonable level.
Finally, with the suggestion that Aluko isn’t a natural central striker, it still leaves that position unfulfilled. But with £7.5 million being splurged, would that leave enough money to also bring in someone like Nelson Oliveira or Nahki Wells? At this point it really is unknown how much money the Chinese owners have and how much they’re willing to spend. Personally I can’t see another big money transfer as well as Aluko, but only time will. If it did happen, it would certainly be unprecedented in the history of Reading Football Club.
Of course, if/when the transfer is completed, the fee will be described as “undisclosed” so we’ll not know the exact amount that Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li will have coughed up. What might make the fee a little more rational would be if it was just £4-5 million upfront with various add-ons and clauses. Additionally, some of the fee may be recouped instantly if the likes of Callum Harriott and Joseph Mendes go out on loan in the next couple of days.
Agree with Olly? Or do you think that Aluko would be a worthwhile addition to Reading’s squad? Let us know in the comments below.