Reading have a new midfielder: Amadou Salif Mbengue. The 20-year-old has joined the Royals as a free agent after leaving French side Metz, agreeing a deal that runs until January.
Mbengue is the Royals’ 12th signing so far this season. He joins Tom Ince, Dean Bouzanis, Shane Long, Sam Hutchinson, Nesta Guinness-Walker, Naby Sarr, Joe Lumley, Tyrese Fornah, Jeff Hendrick, Mamadou Loum and Baba Rahman in coming through the door since mid-June.
While the announcement itself came a little out of the blue, bringing in Mbengue is certainly not a surprise. He’d been on trial with Reading since early August according to Football Insider and has recently been pictured in training, so we knew he was still around.
However, the Royals held back on a transfer, possibly due to reported recent interest in fellow midfielder Massimo Luongo, although he’s now moved to Middlesbrough. Failing to land Luongo could well have been the deciding factor in snapping up Mbengue.
Mbengue is one of a few successful triallists for Reading in recent months. Hutchinson agreed a two-year deal after arriving pretty early in the summer, while Guinness-Walker followed him on the eve of the season. They could be joined by Yasin Ben El-Mhanni (although news on him still being at the club has gone quiet), but more likely Jordan Ibe, who was spotted in training this week.
Head of football operations Mark Bowen said of Mbengue:
“Amadou has been very patient and professional during the weeks he has spent around the first team group out on the training pitches and he has earned this short-term deal with the club. Crucially, he will add more strength to a squad aiming to consistently compete in what is a demanding Championship campaign.”
While Paul Ince added:
“Amadou has been a real asset out on the training pitches in recent weeks and he has proven to me, my coaching staff and his teammates that he can play a part in what we are trying to achieve in difficult circumstances this season. I’m pleased I will be be working with him for the next few months and I look forward to seeing more of what he is capable of.”
Mbengue is very much a raw talent, being only 20 years old and lacking significant first-team experience. He did however turn out a dozen times for Metz in Ligue 1 last season - a campaign which ultimately ended in relegation for the Lorraine-based side. He was subsequently linked with Celtic and Udinese.
There’s not much information out there about his playing style, although Transfermarkt suggests he can play as both a defensive midfielder and centre back (the usual “don’t take everything on Transfermarkt as gospel” rules apply though). However, Reading FC only reference him being a midfielder in the official announcement.
Mbengue could certainly be useful as depth both in midfield and at the back. The Royals otherwise lack an outright defensive back-up to Mamadou Loum in the middle of the park, while Scott Dann’s ongoing injury woes leave us light on options at centre half.
That said, seeing as Reading took their time over signing Mbengue and ultimately only handed him a short-term deal, it’s a safe bet that he’s at least initially only being viewed as depth. That’s not to say he isn’t talented - the Royals can’t afford to waste money or squad spaces so wouldn’t have signed him for the sake of it.
Either way, the next few months are a great opportunity for him to prove his ability in what is, ironically, an extended trial. If he performs well, Reading can always look to extend his stay.
He’ll certainly be needed, with Reading facing a heavy set of fixtures between the upcoming international break and the mid-season World Cup. Being able to rotate out Loum, Hendrick and Fornah - or replace them in the case of injury - will be helpful for managing an intense workload.
Welcome to Reading Amadou!