Michael Olise – The Reading teenager who should be on the radar of European powerhouses by Vuyo Ndebele
Dominant foot: Left
Position : CAM, RW, LW
Strengths: Technique, Vision, Long Shots, Set Pieces
Having nearly gained promotion back into the Premier League in 2016/17 under the management of legendary Dutchman Jaap Stam, Reading have struggled in recent times to find consistency in their performances on the pitch, resulting in them failing to challenge for a top half Championship finish, let alone promotion to the Premier League. Last season, however, was a different story for the Royals as they finished in 7th place, falling just short of a playoff spot after a very promising start to their campaign. This resurgence and much improved overall performance was thanks in large part to the brilliance of 19 year-old midfield creator, Michael Olise. The young Frenchman finished the season with an impressive 12 assists — second only to Norwich’s Emiliano Buendia (16) — and 7 goals in 46 appearances, heralding much of the creative responsibility for The Royals, in what became his breakout season.
Olise made his debut for Reading in March 2019, having spent a couple of years in their youth ranks, soon earning himself a three-year deal at the club. Prior to that, he had spent time at Manchester City and Chelsea before finally making the move to The Madejski. He has since grown into a talismanic figure in a team full of exciting young prospects and his undeniable talent was evident for all to see last season. With the calmness and maturity on the ball of a seasoned veteran, the multifaceted midfielder has shown the ability to change a game in the blink of an eye. At his best when given a largely free role, Olise is comfortable on either flank, as well as in the no. 10 role. He poses a consistent threat to defences with his movement and uncanny ability to pick out a pass from any where in the final third. Averaging 1.9 key passes per 90 and an 84.6% pass completion rate, he often looks to cut in from the right side to thread through balls for forwards running in behind the opposition defence.
With a wand of a left foot, Olise has also taken up set-piece responsibility for Vejko Paunovic’s men, illustrating his confidence and quality from dead-ball situations. As the season went on and opposition defences started to pay more attention to him, he would often find himself tightly marked. Subsequently, he would drop much deeper to collect the ball and try to create by either gliding past his marker with his dribbling ability, or simply picking out a measured pass into space. Thriving in 1v1 situations with his trickery, ball control and physical strength working in tandem with his vision, the upstart Frenchman has gone from being a mostly unknown entity to arguably the most talented emerging young player in the Championship – a league that seems to churn out exciting players at an incredible rate in recent times.
These impressive displays haven’t gone unnoticed, as the teenager picked up the EFL Young Player of the Season award, fending off strong competition from Liverpool loanee, Harvey Elliot, who had a tremendous season himself at Blackburn Rovers. Heading into the final 12 months of his contract at the club, Michael is a highly sought after commodity, with a whole host of clubs hoping to acquire and cultivate his undeniable talent. This comes as no surprise considering the year he’s just had and the potential he possesses to become a world class player. Moreover, the demand for the youngster does not stop at club level, as football federations are also campaigning for his allegiance to their respective national teams.
Born in England to a Nigerian father and French-Algerian mother, he is eligible to play for France, Algeria, Nigeria and England internationally. At youth level, he has represented France twice but has yet to make a competitive senior appearance for the nation. Nigeria aimed to be the first country to make a legitimate move for Olise, naming him as a standby for their AFCON qualifying games in March 2021. The Super Eagles have made a habit of capping foreign-born players in recent years and he would likely have a more realistic chance at regular football if he opts to play for the West African giants as opposed to France or England.
The Athletic recently reported that an £8 million release clause is included in his contract, whilst Transfermarkt has valued him in the region of £13.5 million. The market rate for a breakthrough star in the Championship typically tends to be around £20-30 million, with Emiliano Buendia recently sealing a move to Aston Villa for £30 million. As such, picking up an exciting young talent for less than half that price should be a tempting proposition for any Premier League club.
Michael Olise has certainly shown that he has the quality to play at a higher level and a move to the top flight of English Football or even any of the other Top 5 leagues seems inevitable in the near future at this point. Perhaps one more season in the championship could be what’s best for his development, but his contract situation suggests him and his entourage think otherwise. If Jack Grealish was to make his proposed move to Manchester City for example, the acquisition of Olise could prove to be a masterstroke if he fulfills his potential at Villa. Another risky but potentially move would be one to Dortmund – a club that has proved time and time again they’re not scared to invest in unpolished gems, yet they’ve reaped the rewards of their faith in youth with the likes of Sancho, Dembele & Aubamayeng all eventually leaving the German side for handsome amounts of money. It’s certainly going to be an interesting year to come for Olise and one worth keeping an eye on.