Welcome to Reading, Mamadou Loum. The Royals have snapped up the 25-year-old midfielder on a season-long loan from Porto and reportedly have a €5m purchase option included in the deal.
This move seems to have come about pretty quickly. Portuguese outlet Record reported on July 21 that Loum was heading for Berkshire, with Paul Ince saying after the Brighton game that he was hopeful a deal could be done before the season opener at Blackpool.
Born in Dakar, Senegal, Loum started out at hometown club US Ouakam before joining Portuguese side Braga in 2015. His four years there included around 70 appearances for Braga B, plus loan spells with Moreirense (the first half of 2018/19) and Porto (the second half of 2018/19). Loum then signed for Porto on a permanent deal in the summer of 2019, but never really made his mark there, instead having to spent last season on loan at La Liga side Deportivo Alaves.
The 2021/22 campaign was ultimately a disappointing one for Alaves who, as it happens, also had Matt Miazga on loan. They finished bottom of La Liga and were therefore relegated to the second tier. It was however a productive one for loanee Loum, who played 32 times, only missing most (four) of the remaining six matches due to international duty.
So what will he bring to Reading’s midfield?
Stylistically, Loum is a more combative and imposing option than the Royals’ other options. Tyrese Fornah is technically promising but has plenty of development to go through, Jeff Hendrick is better deployed as a more advanced midfielder and Sam Hutchinson is more likely to be used as a central defender.
Loum’s physicality certainly stood out to Paul Ince, who told the media after the Brighton game:
“He’s 6ft 3in - a monster - and has played for FC Porto, played at the Nou Camp and Bernabeu so he can’t be a bad player. He’ll love it here - if we get him. To get him and Sarr in means we’ll look a lot more stronger. It’s 46 games and we have to be a powerful side - like Luton last season. We lacked that at times last season but we are where we are, be positive and push forwards.”
We can see Loum’s specific defensive strengths in these charts. He’s more adept at ball recoveries, interceptions and avoiding being dribbled past than he is at progressing the ball upfield through dribbles or passes.
Mamadou Loum - Alavés 2021-2022 Midfield Template, Radar and Crab Cake pic.twitter.com/EBNOuvMO0N— Crab Stats Graphics (@CrabStats) July 19, 2022
So he should add some muscle to Reading’s midfield and give others the cover to express themselves higher up the pitch. A key question though will be whether he’s better in a midfield pairing or as a sole holding player, given that the Royals have used both roles in pre-season (in a 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 respectively).