In honour of the international break, and the fact that Reading brought players from a number of different continents in this window, I thought I’d compile a casual list of the best-ever Royals from the individual continental football federations.
That’s right, in the spirit of the summer, I’m delving back through the record books to deliver some scorching hot takes about the most exciting Reading players from CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, and all of the other less amusingly named federations!
An immediate observation from compiling this list is just how wide Reading cast the net when looking for goalkeepers. As a sneak peek, netminders have been among the best Royals representatives for three of the six continental federations. Since the beginning of the 21st century Reading have been consistently blessed by great goalkeeping, and yet rarely has the Reading net been passed between countrymen.
With all that in mind, and loose parameters for “best” Reading player from each continent left up to your imagination, let’s dive in!
While there were two former Reading players from Asia to enjoy, pickings were fairly slim. After this review, it’s certainly an area that I’d like to see the Royals attempt to draw talent from more often. Asian players are breaking out in leagues across the European continent, so it’s hard to think that Reading couldn’t benefit from more concentrated scouting.
Ali Al Habsi was Reading’s player of the season for two years running though, so Reading can’t complain about the quality of their Asian players. Seol Ki-Hyeon may have been our best Asian player ever however, contributing as he did to our first Premier League campaign and scoring some absolute corkers along the way!
When considering this category, my mind immediately went to Jimmy Kebe. I know that will be a popular opinion on The Tilehurst End as well, given the podcast’s hope for Kebe’s approval! The Malian winger was as unpredictable as he was dangerous, contributing 175 memorable games for the Royals before paving the Crystal Palace exit route for Michael Olise.
Beyond Kebe, here’s hoping that Baba Rahman will be one for this list by the end of the season! His current Ghana teammate Andy Yiadom is worth a shout at least as one of Reading’s most consistently quality African players. Yiadom has been one of the first names on the team sheet, mixing pace with attacking intent. His leadership in the locker room is no doubt key as well, given the turnover Reading have dealt with during Yiadom’s tenure.
For an honourable mention, who could forget when Yakubu waddled into town in 2015? The former Everton starman was past his best when he joined the Royals, but still contributed a goal despite few appearances. 21 international goals for Nigeria and close to 100 Premier League goals indicate the quality of the player though.
The most consequential player for Reading from CAF though may well have been Senegal’s Ibrahima Sonko. A rock at the back in the 106 season, Sonko embodied the commitment level of the entire team. Usually the first African player I can recall in a Reading shirt, he’s definitely my pick for best of the CAF bunch!
CONCACAF (North, Central America and the Caribbean)
Given that any Reading fan should be able to name at least one favourite former player from CONCACAF, I expected there to be many choices for the best player, and I wasn’t disappointed.
You can even narrow your choices down to favorite player from either of the 21st-century promotion teams. The 106 team contributed America’s Bobby Convey and Marcus Hahneman, and the 2011/12 Championship winning team featured the Caribbean trio of Jobi McAnuff, Jason Roberts and Shaun Cummings. I’d be hard pressed to pick a best player from either of those years, though McAnuff may shade it for me from the 11/12 squad.
Finally, a CONCACAF rundown wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the legendary Shaka Hislop. Hislop began his career with the Royals back in 1992, shortly after completing an internship with NASA. He made it through numerous Premier League teams and was still around in 2006 to play England in the Germany World Cup!
CONMEBOL (South America)
Given South America’s predilection for technical and fleet-of-foot play, it’s perhaps a shame that Reading’s highest-quality representatives from the continent have been the furthest man back! Given the pool though, current Reading keeper Rafael Cabral is clearly one of the best South American players to play for the Royals. His form can be streaky, but on his day he can be one of the best shot stoppers in the league, and could easily end up in a top-flight European division when his contract expires at the end of the season.
Sticking to the theme of recency and goalkeeping, the other South American former Reading player of similar or even superior quality is Villa’s Emiliano Martinez. Though he spent just six months with the Royals, his impact was huge, helping Reading to avoid relegation with a series of crucial saves. His fiery temperament and skill level have only grown since leaving Berkshire!
Unsurprisingly, the federation with the lowest average FIFA world ranking has contributed precious few players to Reading. In fact, just to make this fit, I’m going to have to ignore the fact that Australia left OFC in 2006. Luckily though, this particular player did play at U-20 level in the OFC, and that’s good enough in my book! In lieu of much semblance of player selection then, technically OFC gave Reading a 21st century great in Adam Federici!
Federici’s 10 years in a Reading shirt recall fond memories for many Reading fans. While his chance in the league finally came in 2009 after Hahnmeman moved on, Federici had already looked like a future star for Reading. He made a series of fine saves in the FA Cup fifth round against Manchester United... just don’t ask him about the replay!
In happier times though, Feds even scored a goal for Reading against Cardiff City in the league, and also early in preseason while being used as a makeshift striker by Steve Coppell! He was a safe pair of hands in Reading’s net for the best part of a decade, one of the best Reading keepers ever, and certainly the best ever Reading player from OFC!
Sometimes, when the list of options is too long, it can be tough for your mind to concentrate and choose favorites. That hasn’t been the case when choosing best players from the other continents, but understandably, it certainly is for UEFA.
For those interested in my thoughts on the best players from individual countries in UEFA, many of those can be found in my EURO 2020 rundown from the summer. There’s a lot of great current and former contributors to choose from, and I’m unsure that there’s even a clear top 10 that most Reading fans could choose from.
In any case, trying to choose a best ever Reading player out of the UEFA pool is sure to lead to a few arguments. In that case, I’ll just say Lewis Baker, and leave it at that.
I’ll instead create a poll here for you all to let me know. When that poll doubtlessly lists “other” as the most popular option from UEFA, we’ll truly know that it’s just too large of a pool to pick a favourite from!
Who is the best Reading player ever from UEFA?