Gylfi Sigurdsson is probably not a familiar name for those more accustomed to watching the Premier League than the Championship. However it is not without some justification that his former manager Brian McDermott described him as, “Reading’s best player for a generation.” The midfielder scored 16 league goals in 32 appearances last season but departed for Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim in August for a fee of around £7 million. Adam Johnson left Championship side Middlesbrough for a comparable fee back in January. Should more PL clubs have registered an interest in this 21-year old free-scoring midfielder?
The Reykjavik born youngster was technically a home grown player as he signed up for a scholarship with Reading FC in 2005. He progressed rapidly through their youth and reserve sides but had to wait until August 2008 for his senior debut. Appearances were largely confined to the League Cup and the 6ft 1in midfielder was loaned to Shrewsbury Town and Crewe Alexandra for the purposes of gaining valuable experience. Unglamorous it may have been but ‘The Sig’ returned to the Madejski Stadium equipped to display skill and maturity for the 2009/10 season.
Known as a clean striker of the ball, Sigurdsson supported their main forward and scored 20 goals in all competitions last season. He additionally showed his technical ability and invention from dead ball situations. The campaign had its complications as a string of losses saw Brendan Rodgers leave his managerial post at the Berkshire club in December. McDermott became the caretaker boss having previously been in charge of the Under-19s and the reserve team. Their stunning FA Cup run which took them to the quarter finals of that competition helped McDermott secure the role permanently. The Icelandic international in his first full season with the senior team was the driving force in that exciting cup run.
Reading’s Player of the Season who is known for his composure from the penalty spot, equalised in this manner during their third-round replay at Anfield. Reading went on to win at Liverpool in extra time and the attack minded player who can also be utilised on the wings controlled a weighted pass and slotted home against Burnley in the following round. His manager felt he was growing in authority and developing an aura. Unwilling to prove him wrong, Sigurdsson was on the score-sheet in the fifth-round against West Brom. The game finished 2-2 but the Icelander scored in extra time with a curling effort from 25 yards, having already rattled Scott Carson’s crossbar earlier in the tie.
Crucially for Reading the form of this mercurial rising star was not confined to the cup, eventually being beaten by Aston Villa. He was a pivotal figure in their push to avoid relegation and they recorded a respectable ninth place finish. Accolades were not merely forthcoming from the club as Sigurdsson was the Championship Player of the Month for March. Anticipating interest from across Europe this summer, the club pre-emptively managed to get the midfielder to sign an improved three year deal in May. He started this season in blistering fashion, scoring a sumptuous long range effort against Scunthorpe and with an easier finish away to Leicester.
When Hoffenheim revealed the extent of their interest, the club whose parachute payments have ceased could not dismiss the offer. McDermott has already reinvested a portion of that fee and feels his side can cope without their exceptional former ball player. His new boss in Germany has said of him, “although 20-years old, (he) has a great ability to score from midfield and we still see in him huge potential to develop further.” It has been a meteoric rise for the youngster who will be missed by the Royals and English football too.