Even though it was pretty much inevitable that Michael Olise was going to be leaving this summer, the way in which it has come about has been relatively out of the blue. The rumours that Crystal Palace had activated the £8 million release clause in his contract (yep, after all that, Sky Sports were in fact spot on) surfaced on Tuesday night, and by Thursday afternoon he’d been officially unveiled by the South London club.
A lot has obviously already been said about the fee we’ve ended up receiving for Olise - which, let’s be honest, should only really be enough for his right boot. However, I don’t want to dwell on that too much in this piece. It was either £8 million now or him leaving on a free in 12 months’ time, I know which one I prefer, even if neither of them are particularly ideal.
I don’t want to dwell on the fee any further; we can't change it now, what’s done is done. I want to focus more on what an absolute pleasure it’s been watching this kid play football on a weekly basis for the time we had him - albeit from our sofas rather than the terraces.
In my opinion it’s simple: Michael Olise is the best talent our academy has ever produced. I'm only 22 years old, so in relative terms I haven’t been watching Reading for very long at all, but I can’t recall seeing another Reading player make playing football look so ridiculously easy. It’s an effortless task for him.
For any football fan, just taking a look at his stats last season and the fact that he was awarded with the EFL Young Player of the Season award in May will tell you that Olise has the potential to go right to the very, very top. But, for me, it’s the things that only us Reading fans have had the pleasure of witnessing that make him so special.
The way he manipulates a football match and makes sure it’s played to his tempo and no one else’s. The way he weaves his way out of tight corners and situations. The way he glides across a football pitch so full of grace and elegance. He makes playing football look like a work of art.
By about the middle of October last season I’d lost count of the amount of times Olise had left me speechless in disbelief. As Reading fans, I guess we're just not used to seeing football being played at the level that Olise demands it’s played at.
I could go on and on about how beautiful it is to watch him play football, but it’s the other side of his game that impresses me the most, and it’s the part of his game that means he will go to play at whatever level he wants to play at. For a talent that young and that raw, he doesn’t half work hard.
I don’t have the statistics for distance covered or amount of sprints from last season, but even without looking I can be pretty sure that Olise will be right at the top of those charts. When he has the ball he is a joy to watch, when he doesn’t have the ball he’s an absolute work horse.
With all the hype around him this season, i’m sure it would’ve been very easy for Olise to let things get to his head a little bit, but he has stayed grounded and disciplined whilst also letting his arrogance and audacity flourish and grow, allowing him to produce endless moments of magic. I just can’t fault him at all.
The best bit? He’s 19 years old. Most professional footballers can only ever dream of reaching the level Olise is at right now. He is a mercurial talent that is on a path that will take him right to the very, very top.
Like all things, we won’t appreciate how fortunate we’ve been to watch Olise in a Reading shirt week in, week out until now he's gone. He’s going to be one hell of a miss. But let’s be honest, it’s been clear for a very long time that his level is much, much higher than us.
In an alternate universe, maybe the stars aligned and Olise spearheaded our promotion, signed a new multi-year contract and went on to become a Reading Football Club hero. That’d be quite nice wouldn't it? But it wasn’t to be.
Olise has been a credit to Reading Football Club, a true reflection of the values instilled by Eamonn Dolan of hard work and humility. And now we can watch him do exactly what he deserves to do - showcase his mercurial talent in the best league in the world against the best players in the world. No one can begrudge him of that, and I for one hope he goes on to achieve everything he has the potential to achieve.
For a club like us, he’s a once-in-a-generation kind of talent, and he'll always be one of our own. Go do your thing Michael, we’re all rooting for you.