Earlier today, Olly made the case that signing Sone Aluko for big money isn’t a good idea. I think he’s wrong.
Good players don’t come cheap. That’s always been the case, but it’s especially true in modern football, with more and more teams not only being able to spend big, but also being able to refuse to sell their own talent except for a big fee.
That’s the scenario Reading find themselves in - indeed, Jaap Stam has spoken various times this summer about how frustrated he is that the club can’t bring players in from Championship rivals due to the massive price tags standing in their way. It’s also the case with Sone Aluko - the 28 year-old forward that Reading are reportedly (at time of writing) trying to prise from Fulham.
I think we can all agree that, to whatever extent, he’s a good player. After all, he was a key component of a Fulham side that won praise for its exciting, attacking football... and wasn’t far away from getting to Wembley.
But is he worth the reported £7.5m?
No, probably not. Transfer fees these days are horrifically bloated, and that number right there is no exception. Reading have money to burn (thanks Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li), and Fulham are under no pressure to sell (thanks Shahid Khan). Thus, a player who probably would have gone for £2-3m a few years ago is now being sold for a lot more.
However, I don’t think that’s really the point. At the end of the day, Reading are spending cash in the hope/expectation that they’ll be promoted in May. Should Sone Aluko play a key role in that happening, £7.5m is a drop in the ocean.
Two important points should be remembered here:
- Reading have a lot of money to spend.
- They’re choosing to spend it on Sone Aluko.
For me, that’s strong evidence that Reading are confident that Aluko would be a very good signing. Why smash the club’s transfer record on a player they’re unsure about? They could always spend it on someone else if they so wished.
There’s also little to suggest that this is a last-minute, panic-driven signing. Reading’s interest in Aluko was first revealed on July 17, so the Nigerian is clearly a long-term target.
Reading’s transfer decision makers surely identified Aluko as a key target a while ago, and are willing to spend big to bring him to the club. If Jaap Stam, Brian Tevreden, Ron Gourlay and Dai Yongge are on board, I’m confident that they’re making a well thought-through decision.
Oh, and Reading are actually getting a very good player
Sone Aluko might not be the most exciting of talents - if he was, he’d be in the Premier League already - but he is an experienced, proven player at this level. The 28 year-old would bring experience encompassing 306 professional games to Reading, having already played for Rangers, Aberdeen, Hull City and of course Fulham.
Admittedly, he’s not been prolific across his entire career - 47 goals in 306 is nothing special, but add in a further 48 assists and his record of nearly one direct contribution to a goal every third game doesn’t look so bad.
Also, last season’s evidence suggests the Nigerian is entering the best spell in his career. Eight goals and ten assists made him an important player for a free-scoring Fulham, and those stats compare favourably with Reading’s own options. Eight goals would have put him joint third with John Swift had he been in blue and white (Kermorgant first, McCleary second), and no one beat his ten assists.
Moreover, only Tom Cairney beat Aluko for Fulham match minutes in 2016/17, showing how highly he was regarded by Slavisa Jokanovic.
How would he fit in at Reading?
Jaap Stam typically either plays a 3-5-2 or a 4-3-3, and Aluko can fit into both systems very well. The 28 year-old’s mobility and dribbling make him an ideal wide forward for a 4-3-3, which Jokanovic often plays at Fulham. Should the gaffer opt for a strike pairing instead, Aluko can also fill in as a second striker alongside a target man, be it Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Yann Kermorgant or... ahem... Nelson Oliveira.
I completely agree with Olly when he says that Aluko can’t lead the line - he’s simply too small a player to do that (Aluko that is) - but I can’t imagine that’s what his job would be.
So would it be sensible to bring Aluko in as a wide forward when we’ve already got new signing Modou Barrow, not to mention Adrian Popa, Garath McCleary, Roy Beerens and Callum Harriott?
I think so, yes. First and foremost, if we’re to seriously challenge for promotion, we need a lot of options - be it for the sake of competition or cover in the case of injuries. Popa and Barrow may be going well at the moment, but a drop in form or a few injuries could make our current options look a lot worse than they do at the moment.
Being a tad harsh, have any of our wingers properly proven themselves at this level? Garath McCleary has, but a series of injuries have shredded his consistency in the last few years, whereas Roy Beerens was hit and miss last season. Meanwhile, the jury is out on Adrian Popa, Modou Barrow and Callum Harriott.
Just going on last season’s evidence, Aluko has proved himself at this level. He’s got plenty of experience in English football under his belt, and is better than almost all of our wide attacking options.
Bringing him in from a promotion rival, particularly this late in the window, isn’t cheap, but it’s definitely worth doing.