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Reading Bring In Free-Agent Goalkeeper Joel Pereira

He’ll compete with David Button for a starting spot, following the loan exit of Dean Bouzanis.

Hearts v Aberdeen - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership Photo by Ewan Bootman/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Reading have just boosted their goalkeeper ranks. Joel Pereira has arrived on a free transfer on a one-year deal, having been out of contract after departing Eredivisie side RKC Waalwijk. He’s effectively replacing Dean Bouzanis, who rejoined Sutton United on loan until January on Deadline Day.

Pereira is Reading’s second addition to the goalkeeping department this summer, following the free-transfer signing of David Button from West Bromwich Albion. They’ll both compete this season to be Reading’s number one, with youngster Coniah Boyce-Clarke also in the picture. Joe Lumley had been the Royals’ first choice last season, but ultimately ended up at Southampton after his loan spell in Berkshire wasn’t extended.

Head of football operations Mark Bowen said:

“Our aim during this summer’s rebuilding process has been to create strength in depth across all areas of the pitch. Joel’s recruitment gives us another option in the goalkeeping department, and during his time training with the team, he has shown a desire to work hard to meet our high standards and to push the other goalkeepers for that starting spot.”

Pereira, 27, came through at Manchester United. Although he featured just a handful of times at Old Trafford, he was at one point highly regarded, with compatriot manager Jose Mourinho saying of him in 2017:

“We have a third goalkeeper that I think will be the best Portuguese goalkeeper of the next generation so anyone in goal I trust completely.”

Instead, Pereira picked up a smattering of loan experience across Europe. He turned out for Rochdale (8 appearances), Belenenses (10), Vitoria de Setubal (10), Kortrijk (5), Hearts (25) and Huddersfield Town (2).

The most extensive of those spells - the one at Hearts, a full-season 2019/20 loan - was a poor one for Pereira which ended in relegation. As he himself admitted:

“Unfortunately, my year at Hearts was not the best year of my career. I did not play to my highest level and that is something that disappoints me to this day.

“My biggest regret is not being able to do more to help the club in a difficult season that saw us relegated from the league because Hearts is a fantastic club.

“Everyone working in and around the club was really nice and the fans deserved more. They deserved a different year from the team and from myself.”

That season does however give us some interesting insight into Pereira’s style. He was used as a sweeper-keeper by Hearts boss Daniel Stendel, who favoured a high-pressing style (and did the same at Barnsley in League One the season prior). Stendel factored that into his decision to stick with Pereira despite his poor form, as he said a couple of years ago:

“[Pereira] has a lot of quality. He was comfortable with the ball at his feet, he could stand higher up on the pitch, which suited the way we wanted to play. He had the most potential from the goalkeepers we had. He was a little bit younger than the other guys, but he had the potential.”

Given Ruben Selles’ likely preference for goalkeepers who can play out from the back in that fashion, you can see why Reading opted for Pereira. Similar can be said for Button, who’s capable of playing that way too.

Pereira was released by Manchester United in 2021, before spending the last two years at RKC Waalwijk in the Netherlands, playing just five times. His game time there was curtailed though by a back injury that kept him on the sidelines for seven months.

While his career record doesn’t look that great overall, it’s not actually that dissimilar to another former Reading ‘keeper who arrived without having really stood out anywhere previously - Emi Martinez - and he did alright. That isn’t to say Pereira will definitely following in Martinez’ footsteps, but don’t write him off just yet.

Welcome to Berkshire Joel!