In each of the last two summers, Reading have been linked with a player who has heralded from Argentina, but you’d be forgiven for having forgotten both of them.
In 2016, it was defender Gaston Campi of Racing Club that looked set to join the Royals having been on trial with Jaap Stam’s side in Holland for their pre-season training camp. Reports in Argentina suggested that he would be signed on loan for the season with the option of then permanently signing for $1.2 million. However, Stam was clearly not impressed with what he saw from Campi, who stayed with Racing Club before joining Estudiantes last summer.
Then, last summer there were reports that Reading were in for winger Mauro Marconato, who was a free agent after being let go by CA Colon. Yet the rumours were quickly dismissed by the 21-year-old’s agent, and he ended up staying in Argentina to sign for Atlético de Rafaela in September.
Reading have a history of recruiting Icelandic talent, from current Royal Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, to Championship winners Brynjar Gunnarsson and Ivar Ingimarsson. Don’t forget the latter’s cousin Gunnar Heidar Thorvaldsson either.
But arguably the most gifted of the lot was Gylfi Sigurdsson, who is probably Iceland’s greatest footballer ever. The midfielder joined Reading’s academy at the age of 16, and made an incredible breakthrough into the first team four years later. Scoring 20 goals in 44 games, he was named the club’s Player of the Season for 2009/10 and it seemed inevitable that the youngster would go on to better things.
Despite signing a new contract that summer and beginning the next campaign in blue and white, Sigurdsson would sign for Hoffenheim in the last few days of the transfer window. As expected, he has gone from strength to strength since, returning to the UK to star for Tottenham, Swansea and now Everton.
Gylfi has 55 caps for Iceland to date, scoring 18 goals and collecting the country’s footballer of the year award for the last six years. He has helped them qualify for their first ever European Championships, where they knocked out England, and now the World Cup where he will feature alongside Bodvarsson.
No Croatian has ever featured for Reading in the past, but could that change this summer? If you believe everything you read online then the answer is yes, as centre-back Denis Kolinger of Lokomotiva Zagreb has been linked with the club recently by The Sun. £1 million is the rumoured price for a player who has still has two years left on his current contract but impressed greatly in 2017/18.
Brighton and Middlesbrough are also reportedly interested in Kolinger, who is 24 years old and has one international cap to his name.
The closest we’ve come in the past to signing a Croatian in the past was in the summer of 2013, when reports suggested that Mladen Petric, recently released by Fulham and scorer of 13 goals at international level, was set for a medical at the Madejski Stadium, but the move never materialised.
It’s fair to say that Yakubu’s best days were past him when Reading signed him on a free transfer in February 2015. At 32 years old, the striker had scored nearly 100 Premier League goals for Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton and Blackburn, and netted 21 times for Nigeria, starring at two World Cups for the African nation. He displayed virtual none of that goalscoring nous in his four month spell with the Royals, except for on one day. Valentine’s Day at Pride Park.
Reading were facing Derby in the FA Cup fifth round and the scores were level with eight minutes left after Darren Bent had cancelled out Hal Robson-Kanu’s opener. But then Yakubu, who had only been substituted on ten minutes earlier, was put through by Robson-Kanu and finished expertly to send the travelling fans crazy and the Royals into the quarter-finals. It was his only goal for the club, but probably paid back all of his wages instantly. Reading of course would beat Bradford via a replay in the last eight before losing to Arsenal in only our second ever FA Cup semi-final.
In addition to ‘The Yak’, three other Royals have also represented Nigeria at international level - Sam Sodje, Hope Akpan and Sone Aluko.