It looks like Omar Richards’ switch to Bayern Munich is a done deal. According to a couple of outlets, the young left back has now agreed to join the Bundesliga side on a free transfer in the summer when his contract with Reading expires.
Football Insider were the first to report the news on Saturday, soon after the Royals’ defeat to Millwall, saying Richards had agreed a three-year deal with Bayern. If that timing isn’t rubbing salt in the wound, I don’t know what is. That report was then backed up on Sunday morning by Christian Falk, head of football at German outlet Bild.
At time of writing, neither Reading nor Bayern Munich have confirmed the news, although you’d think it’s only a matter of time before that happens. It’s a big blow for Reading, although not one that’s unexpected, as Richards’ transfer to Bayern has been rumoured for over a month now.
On January 4 The Daily Telegraph reported that Bayern Munich had made an approach for the left back ahead of his contract expiring in the summer while Reading hadn’t made a contract offer, before The Athletic backed up the Telegraph’s piece three days later. The Guardian was the first outlet to mention a contract length (three years) as far as I can see.
Reporting around Richards’ future had gone quiet in the last few weeks, and to be honest I was glad of that. It’s better for things like this to play out in the background, without Reading or Richards having the distraction of constant media reports to deal with.
As frustrating as it is for us to see a hugely talented player leave the club under any circumstances, let alone on a free transfer, it’s great for Richards. Getting a move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs (besides Reading of course) is a fantastic opportunity, and one that I’m sure he will have found difficult to turn down.
At the end of the day, he’s earned it. Before this season I’d been unsure over whether or not he was a long-term option for Reading, but his development under Veljko Paunovic and consistent performances in a promotion-chasing team have been sufficient to attract attention from a club that’s frequently competing to win the Champions League.
The silver lining on this cloud is that Reading can pitch themselves as a brilliant club for young players, whether at academy level or higher. After all, the Royals’ youth set-up has done great long-term work in developing Richards, and the finishing touches have been put on by a manager who’s evidently very good at improving young players.
Questions will rightly be asked though about the club’s inability to tie Richards down to a new contract before this season. Failing to do so has, after all, denied us the option of cashing in on a youngster with a lot of resale value. Even with the the distorted economic landscape of the game due to Covid-19, you’d think Reading could get at least £10m - a game-changing amount for the club’s finances.
But things aren’t as simple as ‘Reading should have finalised a deal but didn’t’. Agreeing a new contract with Richards, who’s been turning heads across Europe in the final year of his contract, wouldn’t have come cheap. Reading don’t have a lot of money to play with due to both financial fair play - a long-term concern due to past overspending - and the lack of matchday revenue from being forced to play games behind closed doors since coronavirus hit the sport 11 months ago.
One senior official at Reading told Sky Sports News they believed Omar Richards would be worth in excess of £15 million to the club if they were able to keep him. #readingfc pic.twitter.com/e2yYuC7nZI— Talk Reading (@TalkReading) January 8, 2021
Even if we did have the money last summer, it’s not a foregone conclusion that Reading would have given Richards a new contract. His talent is clear to see now, but in preceding years he’d not stood out all that clearly against the club’s other left backs: Jordan Obita and Tyler Blackett.
It’s still a warning for the future though, and one that needs to be heeded quickly. Tom McIntyre and Luke Southwood are among those out of contract in the summer, while Michael Olise and John Swift are due to leave in 2022. As soon as money is available, Reading need to address these expiring deals. Hopefully the likely departures of high earners Sone Aluko and Sam Baldock in a few months will give the club a lot more financial flexibility.
As for Richards though, we wish him the very best of lunch with Bayern.