According to various reports, Reading have received a bid of around £3.5 million from Premier League side Sheffield United for John Swift. The playmaker has been one of the Royals’ most key men in 2019/20, is a strong contender for player of the season, and has understandably been linked with a move to the top tier in the next transfer window.
But how much is Swift actually worth? Should Reading even cash in on their star man at all? Those are tricky questions at the best of times, but the club’s financial difficulties - prompted in large part by a huge wage bill and being forced to conclude the season behind closed doors, without matchday revenue - make them even trickier.
We’ve got some of our writers to have their say on what Reading should do with Swift this summer.
John Swift is, for me, one of the best individual players we’ve had in years. We’ve always known his ability, and that’s come out in flashes during previous seasons, but in 2019/20 he’s grown from someone with potential to a consistently dependable playmaker. Five goals and 10 assists (he’s joint second highest for assists in the division), says it all.
But he’s matured in a broader sense too. Previously you’d be worried to see him in a midfield two, let alone in a withdrawn role, but this season he’s proven himself to be capable of doing both consistently. Whether he’s the lone quarterback in front of the defence, deep alongside someone else, or indeed anywhere in the middle of the park, Swift is reliable.
Because of all that, Reading should be extremely reluctant to sell, even if that’s a harder position to take given the lack of matchday revenue due to playing behind closed doors. If they do sell though, they should put a high valuation on Swift as our starting point, say £10 million, and play hard ball. In reality, in negotiations that would come down (excluding sell-on clauses etc), but I wouldn't accept less than £6 million plus add ons.
If Reading were to sell one of their star names this summer, I would rather it be Liam Moore or George Puscas, but in the financial position the club are in, no one is indispensable. For me, some of the valuations I’ve seen of Swift are a little too high - for two reasons.
Firstly, I perhaps don’t rate the midfielder as much as many others do. There’s no doubting he is one of the best creative players that Reading have, but he lacks consistency. While he may able to provide a moment of magic one minute, he may then be anonymous for the next ten. It’s also worth remembering he has been part of a squad who have been largely uninspiring for three years.
Secondly, the transfer market looks very different to how it did even six months ago. Even clubs towards the lower end of the Premier League will be limited in their spending this summer, and that will see player values decrease. I would be happy with £5 million for Swift along with a sell-on clause and add ons.
In the podcast the other week, I said we should protect John Swift “at all costs” as one of our key players. However, the club needs to raise some funds this summer and if there is a replacement that we can get for him that’s much cheaper - we should perhaps look to cash in on him.
Yes, it’s a big u-turn from me! The financial situation we could really be in has finally hit home. That should not stop us trying to squeeze every penny we can out of the likes of Sheffield United and Leeds United for him - and a sell-on clause could also be an clever insertion in to the agreement if the 25-year-old goes on to do well in the Premier League.
He’s been a brilliant signing after joining in 2016 for free - but he is not irreplaceable - and the fact one of our key players is replaceable probably tells us where we are as a club right now.
If a club offers £6m or more and we can find a few decent players to invest in with that money - we should bite their hand off. You also have to consider the wage bill - his sale could help to ease that slightly.
My heart says absolutely not - not in a million years. However, my head says that, given the current situation, every player will have their price this summer. Day Yongge has reportedly been adamant on the fact that a select group of the first team mustn’t be sold under any circumstance, but that philosophy may have to change now.
With that being said, the reported £3.5 million from Sheffield United for Swifty is still ridiculously low and should be rejected in an instant. Anything between the £5-7 million mark would be what I would hold out for if I was Yongge and Howe. But, like I said, my heart still says that he should be going absolutely nowhere. He has shown this season that he is our best player and one of the best in the Championship.
There are two questions to answer over Swift’s future. Can he be replaced? And can we get a good deal? For the first point, we have to say yes. Michael Olise and Ovie Ejaria are more than good enough to be our two attacking midfield playmakers and we arguably don’t really need a third.
Can we get a good deal? I would want over £5 million with a sizeable stake in his future, because he is our best player. But he could break his leg tomorrow and Reading’s financial black hole could deepen. I’ve often thought that selling players is a skill in itself - and one that the club has failed at in recent years. If Swift leaves, we must get the terms bang on.