This is an updated version of an article from midweek on Olise being on the verge of joining Crystal Palace.
We knew this day would come, and here it is: Michael Olise has been sold by Reading. His new club is Crystal Palace, who’ve wrapped up a permanent deal and a contract that’ll last for five years.
News of the move was broken on Twitter on July 6 by The Secret Scout, who said a medical was completed, and was later confirmed by other outlets including The Athletic. The transfer was confirmed on Thursday afternoon, with Reading mentioning a “record transfer fee” that would remain undisclosed.
Olise told Palace’s website:
“It’s a big moment - Premier League football. It’s a great club and I’m very excited to be here. Good players, a good manager, so I’m ready to start.”
While the Eagles’ chairman Steve Parrish added:
“I’m delighted that Michael has joined us at Crystal Palace. We have been monitoring him extremely closely for an extended period of time, and have been impressed by his consistent performances for Reading at such a young age. He clearly has an abundance of talent that I’m sure will excite all of our supporters, and clearly shows our direction of travel for this window.”
Hoping for a big fee? Well, nope. Jonathan Low from Berkshire Live said the Royals will receive just £8m; according to him, Palace activated a release clause which forced Reading’s hand.
Talk of this release clause started late last year, and I find it bizarre that it took this long for a deal to be done. Either way, The Athletic’s report notes that Palace first identified Olise as a target in January.
Taking the release clause out of consideration for a moment, £8m isn’t to be sniffed at. The money will be hugely useful to Reading; money is tight due to Financial Fair Play and the lack of revenue that’s come in as a result of matches being played behind closed doors. Olise was also due to be out of contract next season, so could have gone for no transfer fee.
And yet, on a footballing level rather than a business one, £8m for a player this special is still criminally low. Olise is a truly marvellous talent who was a delight to watch last season, and he’s absolutely got the potential to play at Champions League level one day. If we were setting a transfer fee according to on-field factors like current ability and potential, Reading would be banking several times more what they’re actually getting.
It’s so frustrating that the Royals are losing such a gem for so little a price.
Of course, this isn’t isolated to Olise. Danny Loader and Omar Richards - both of them highly regarded talents linked with Champions League clubs - ultimately left for a combined transfer fee of £0m. Reading have picked up an unwanted habit of letting valuable youngsters go for a relative pittance - although it’s worth remembering that those players’ situations and the club’s control over them were different, even if the frustration we feel is similar.
On Olise’s situation specifically, Matthew Williamson made a very good point here:
Being angry at a contract signed by a youngster with a handful of appearances for having a release clause higher than pretty much any transfer fee we've ever received for an academy grad is wishing for the club to have unbelievable levels of foresight. #readingfc— Matthew Williamson (@Photomattic) July 6, 2021
After all, when Olise signed this contract in the summer of 2019, he was far from a first-team player. It wasn’t even until early 2020 that Olise was given consistent game time at senior level, and he only really looked like a talent worth more than his £8m release clause at the beginning of last season in mid-2020.
This all could have played out a lot worse for Reading. Had a new contract not been agreed two years ago, Reading may have simply lost Olise earlier on and for less money. A deal being signed certainly wasn’t a given: as I wrote at the time, the pathway from academy to first team had largely dried up under Ron Gourlay the previous year, so sealing the future of young talent would have been more difficult.
Looking to the immediate future, there’s one big question: how helpful will the £8m be for Reading this summer?
The Royals’ exact financial situation is unclear at the moment, although Reading are reportedly only able to sign loan players and free transfers due to previous overspending. News of signings has been thin on the ground regardless, and we don’t know how far off the club is from adding new players to the squad.
The significant funds received from Olise’s sale could be the huge boost needed to kick Reading’s summer spending into action, or may not. Reinvesting all of the £8m into new additions is unlikely.
As for Olise though, this move is a big opportunity and one that’s thoroughly deserved. We wish him all the best at Palace and wherever the rest of his career takes him.