Reading have retained the services of Amadou Mbengue, who’s agreed a new two-year deal at the club. It ends months of uncertainty over the 21-year-old’s future: his previous contract had expired at the end of last season and the Royals have finally managed to work out fresh terms for him.
It’s really encouraging to see Reading keep hold of a player who was one of the few pleasant surprises last season. Mbengue joined the club on a short-term basis last autumn to modest expectations, given that he’d played little senior football at previous club Metz.
However, he soon stood out at Reading and won our own player of the month award for November. After a debut goal for the club (a home winner against Coventry City) in December), he agreed another contract in January to keep him in Berkshire until the end of 2022/23; that month also included a consolation header at Manchester United in the FA Cup.
The rest of the season didn’t pan out quite as well for Mbengue, who was used sparingly by interim boss Noel Hunt. Still, it was a promising campaign for the youngster overall, given that he took to Championship football surprisingly effectively, raised his stock significantly and reported attracted interest from second-tier clubs.
Head of football operations Mark Bowen said:
“Amadou arrived with us less than a year ago – when he first walked in the building he didn’t know much English and didn’t have a lot of first-team football behind him. But he quickly showed his value on the pitch, and his unrelenting enthusiasm and eagerness to work and learn made him a real asset towards the culture that we want to build.
“Amongst undoubted interest from a number of Championship clubs, I am delighted that he has chosen to stay and be part of us and Rubén’s project at Reading! And I am excited to see him continue to grow as a player and a person with us.”
It’ll be interesting to see what exactly the new season has in store for Mbengue. On the face of it things are encouraging, with Mbengue fitting the profile of a young, tenacious, hard-working player that should suit Ruben Selles’ energetic pressing style well. However, Jordan Cottle raised a good point on Twitter: there has to be a Plan A for Mbengue.
A player able to cover lots of positions is great, especially with the small squad we have, but given we fought off interest from higher up to keep Mbengue you'd think we must have a 'Plan A' for him. I just have no idea what exactly that will be https://t.co/gKk82tsgMX— Jordan Cottle (@JordanCottle) July 19, 2023
After all, Mbengue has already played in a number of spots for Reading: left-back, right-back, right-wing-back, centre-back in a three and centre-back in a four. That excludes his pre-Reading experience as a central midfielder. While versatility is great, Mbengue needs to be able to focus on one position and work at it, rather than becoming a jack of all trades.
Personally I’d move Mbengue into midfield, using his energy to add real presence to the middle of the park. That could then free up other midfielders around him to add more of the creativity.
Mbengue is the third ‘signing’ of some kind in the last week or so. Previously, Harvey Knibbs and Sam Smith joined on free transfers from Cambridge United. Reading are now left with two players’ futures outstanding: Coniah Boyce-Clarke and Junior Hoilett. The Royals will do well to keep hold of either, let alone both, but Mbengue’s fresh terms are hopefully an indicator that both will sign on too.