To conclude one of the most long-running, inevitable transfer stories in recent years at Reading, we finally have confirmation that Omar Richards will join Bayern Munich when his contract expires this summer.
This story started on January 4 when Mike McGrath of the Daily Telegraph reported that Bayern had made an approach for Richards, before it was picked up by other outlets. The deal was reportedly done as early as mid-February, with Sky Sports saying Richards passed a medical in early March.
This morning came confirmation of the transfer. Richards has agreed a four-year contract and will take up the number three shirt - both of which show just how much faith they have in him. Indeed, Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić said:
“We’re delighted Omar is coming to FC Bayern. Omar is a technically gifted player on the left side of defence. He finds good solutions going forward, he’s very alert and we trust him to play a good role in our team.”
It’s a bittersweet moment from a Reading point of view. Richards’ departure is simultaneously a huge blow for the first team, of which he was a crucial part this season, a glowing endorsement for the club’s youth development, and of course a terrific achievement for Richards himself.
When he became Reading’s undisputed first-choice left back with the departure of Tyler Blackett and Jordan Obita last summer, the jury was out. Richards hadn’t at the time properly established himself in the first team. In fact, when we asked you in this December 2019 poll where Richards would be in three years’ time, most of you thought he’d be in the Championship.
His progress over the course of 2020/21 though, despite a drop-off in the second half of the season, was outstanding. Richards stood out for his solidity at the back, technical ability and impact in the final third, while his ability to quickly transition between defence and attack demonstrated a maturity beyond the years of someone who only turned 23 in February.
Bayern have got themselves an excellent left back, and one with the potential to get better. The step-up in quality from the Championship to the Champions League won’t be an easy one, but it’s still one we’re backing him to make. It might not be all that long before we see Richards in an England shirt.
Losing a player of that calibre on a free transfer hurts, and speaks to Reading’s mismanagement of finances and contracts in recent years. But producing Richards in the first place is testament to the Royals’ academy structure, the hard work put in by those who brought him through that system, and the pathway into the first team itself.
In the short term, Replacing Richards won’t be easy. It’s difficult enough to get someone as good as him in one area of a left back’s game, let alone finding a player as well rounded as him. Reading have their work cut out on that front this summer.
But in the long term there’s cause for optimism. Ethan Bristow (19) and Imari Samuels (18) are next up on the production line, and they’ll have high hopes of following Richards’ example. Both are talented players - the former made his debut last season while the latter has appeared for England at youth level.
Whatever happens in the left-back department though, Richards has set one hell of a high standard.
Viel glück in Bayern, Omar.