Gylfi Sigurðsson to ... Hoffenheim?
Erstwhile Reading season ticket holder Lanterne Rouge pointed me in the direction of Iceland U21’s 4-1 thrashing of Germany over email correspondence a few weeks ago. Most would have considered the score line to have been the subject of our discussion, but it was the role of Royals midfielder Gylfi Sigurðsson that we Football League spods were really interested in.
Such had been the obvious quality of the 20 year-old on the numerous occasions that I’ve seen him play that my first thoughts were those of surprise that he wasn’t in in the senior squad. Despite only emerging at the beginning of last term, the rosy-cheeked playmaker has performed well beyond his years and has, at times, carried his team in an attacking sense with his unceasing knack of floating into the six yard area at precisely the right time. Twenty goals and a load of assists from the midfield of a team that were, until that trip to Anfield, bound for League 1 was a testament to the rate of Sigurðsson’s progress from just another bright Reading Academy prospect to the club’s first name of the team-sheet last season (not to mention his TTU Young Player of the Season award), so it was with mild incredulity that I discovered he wasn’t yet playing a similar role for his country.
Optimistic Royals fans would have hoped to have kept Sigurðsson under wraps for a time yet, but yesterday’s attention diverting news that he’d completed a £6m move to the Gretna of Germany, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, was undoubtedly a good conclusion for all parties. While it weakens Reading’s ability to create from the centre, the profit made from the deal has to be viewed in perspective of the club’s balance sheet which, despite the princely sums earned for Kevin Doyle and Stephen Hunt last summer, cannot have looked awfully healthy in the post-Premiership years. Indeed, manager Brian McDermott had recently struggled to bring in defensive reinforcements after injuries to several key centre halves, and a move for former loanee Zurab Khizanishvili could only be completed once the Sigurðsson transfer had been tied up. Similarly, instead of lining up a lower league star or a Premiership loannee to fill Sigurðsson’s boots, McDermott has brought in Lee Hendrie on a trial, further indicating the modest budget with which he is working.
But what of Sigurðsson’s future? Anglo-centric commentators had predicted a move to a lower-half Premiership club such as a Wigan or a Newcastle, but the Icelander’s choice of destination underlines a certain modesty and grounding that had been evident in a section of the squad that had achieved success with Reading in the Noughties. Rather than warm the bench, or compromise his progress by opting for an outfit more intent on avoiding defeat than winning games in the EPL, Sigurðsson has seemingly chosen an upwardly mobile club in a league that has, of late, earned a reputation for blooding young talent. If Hoffenheim play anything like the German national team, with its strong work ethic and effortless quality in attack, then Sigurðsson will fit just right in.