Reading have made their first signing of the mid-season transfer window, and the eighth of the season overall, with the arrival of Karl Hein. The 19-year-old goalkeeper joins on loan from Arsenal and will stay at the SCL for the remainder of the season - mirroring a move made by Emi Martinez in 2019.
Hein, who joined the Gunners in 2018, is yet to feature at first-team competitive club level. His pedigree is clear though: he’s been named in numerous matchday squads for Arsenal, including being on the bench during last week’s League Cup semi-final against Liverpool. At international level he’s played a dozen times for Estonia - an impressive feat considering his age.
Pauno stressed that pedigree when discussing Hein’s arrival:
“Karl is an international goalkeeper with good temperament, obvious ability and the hunger to improve and impress. He is a welcome addition to our squad and will increase the strength of our team for our remaining fixtures this season.”
While Dayong Pang said:
“We are delighted to be able to bring Karl to Reading. At the age of 19 he is an exciting prospect, but most importantly he has already shown himself to be a very capable goalkeeper at full international level and he will add quality to our squad in this crucial period.”
Another ‘keeper is a handy addition for the Royals, given that the squad is a man light after the departure of Rafael Cabral. The Brazilian left for Cruzeiro on a free transfer last week. Hein’s arrival should be a good source of competition and cover for Luke Southwood who, despite showing plenty of promise earlier in the season, has looked error-prone recently.
Arsenal are likely to have taken that into consideration. Picking a loan club won’t have been a thoughtless task: you’d think they’ll expect Hein to at least have a good chance of regular football, if not an outright guarantee. Watch this space.
Reading do have young ‘keepers of their own. Jokull Andresson, Coniah Boyce-Clarke and James Holden (who’s been on the first-team bench recently) were options to be Southwood’s understudy and have picked some loan experience this season. However, they’re probably not ready to be relied on at Championship level. Snapping up the highly rated Hein instead though provides a higher-calibre ‘keeper for first-team contention and has the added benefit of freeing up Reading’s own goalies to get more regular experience out on loan themselves.
Does this deal make sense financially? In isolation of the goalkeeping position, Reading have surely saved themselves a significant amount of wages by effectively trading in the established Rafael for a young loanee.
How about the broader financial picture? Reading have limited funds to play with this season so signing a ‘keeper looks an odd decision. Only time will tell on this front though: if the Royals manage other reinforcements this month - most likely in defence - there’ll have been nothing to worry about.
Welcome to Reading Karl!