We’re in a funny old world, one where Reading loanees have achieved some remarkable feats over the years. Dani Carrico won the Europa League. Now Vito Mannone has won the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award. In leaving behind Minnesota United, the Italian admits he “doesn’t know what will happen” but is still under contact in Berkshire until June.
At this point it’s worth remembering what his loan was actually for. This was not a move to earn experience or regain fitness and form before a first-team push. This was an economic matter. Mannone is rumoured to be on a Premier League-esque wage and has little to no transfer market value.
His loan spell hasn’t improved this. MLS clubs do not have deep enough pockets for Mannone’s wages, let alone a competitive transfer fee (which Reading might even waive at this point). Similarly, European sides are unlikely to consider his Stateside success reason enough to take the punt themselves.
So we’re at an impasse. Reading cannot, and shouldn’t necessarily feel pressured into, paying off his contract to allow him an easier shot at a fresh start. But he returns as only the second best goalkeeper at the Mad Stad.
Is making him the sub keeper worth the bother? Sam Walker’s deal runs for another 18 months and the ex-Chelsea shot-stopper has even less market value if Mark Bowen wanted rid. Joao Virginia may be cast aside but then there are the likes of academy talents Jokull Andresson and Coniah Boyce-Clarke who might benefit from a run-out on the bench if need be. In short, Reading are well-stocked.
It is tempting to draw parallels between Mannone and Garath McCleary, another outcast member of the squad but one who has recently been given a second-chance. But the goalkeeper position is different. There are no late cameos and little worth in “offering something a bit extra”. Consistency is king and Rafael is the undisputed number one at the moment - with little appetite for change.
MLS regulars may think an English side stuck towards the bottom of the second-tier are mad for turning down their league’s best-performing goalkeeper. But, as nice a guy and as a good a pro as Vito Mannone is, the numbers simply don’t add up for a second chance at Reading.
Oh, and if you thought this is an isolated case... Sone Aluko is due back from China in December with 18 months still to run on his contract.