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Reading FC academy boss Michael Gilkes defends Omar Richards’ move to Bayern

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Richards leaving to join Bayern wasn’t taken too well by a majority of Reading fans.

Rotherham United v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Omar Richards has already signed a four-year deal to join Bayern Munich from Reading FC on a free transfer this summer. After working his way through Reading’s academy system, he eventually earned a place in the first team as early as 2017, but it wasn’t really until the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 seasons that he really started to become a regular feature under Mark Bowen and then Veljko Paunović.

A majority of Reading fans weren’t happy with the nature of Richards’ departure. Despite being offered a new contract more than once, he made the decision to run out the remainder of his contract and leave on a free transfer. It was partly due to “convincing conversations” as to why Richards ultimately chose to join Bayern.

In a recent radio appearance on BBC Radio Berkshire (via GetReading.co.uk), Reading’s academy boss Michael Gilkes recently came to Richards’s defense, saying he had every right to entertain offers from elsewhere as clubs around Europe started to take notice of his development and positive performances. “Omar Richards has come through our system and is a fantastic player. He had been in and out [of the side] but when he got an opportunity, he took it. t’s as simple as that. As he started to play more regularly, people saw his performances...he has representatives, and [if] he’s not ready to sign [a new contract] then we have to respect that. He went from strength to strength and he ended up running down his contract. The reality is, we wish him all the very best. We don’t want this to happen often, but it has happened and the bottom line is that he has gone to Bayern Munich, so we must be doing something right,” Gilkes explained.

Reading will still get partial compensation for Richards even though he’s already joined Bayern, but the case would’ve been different had Reading gotten him to sign a new contract prior to him making the decision to join Bayern. A majority of Reading fans were disappointed the club wasn’t able to convince him to sign a new contract; the move to Bayern was too enticing.

Richards is just one of a handful of academy products that have gone on to play in Reading’s first team Gilkes said he is a “perfect example” of this road map, much like David Alaba or Thomas Muller working their way through Bayern’s youth teams to the first team.