Omar Richards was released when he was 15. He’s now agreed a deal to join Bayern Munich.
The Reading left-back has been a standout performer in the Royals’ surprise promotion push during the 2020/21 campaign, and has since found himself targeted by the European champions.
Here’s everything you need to know about the 22-year-old.
Richards had to recover from a major setback before he’d even made his professional debut.
The defender signed for Fulham when he was ten years old, but was released by the Cottagers at the age of 15.
However, the disappointment didn’t linger, and he signed for the Reading Under-16 side, completing his youth career in the Royals’ academy system before signing his first professional contract with the club in July 2016 and making his senior debut the following summer.
Richards put pen to paper on a contract extension back in 2017, a deal that keeps him at the Madejski Stadium until 2021.
Talks between the Royals and the 22-year-old regarding a new deal had been in full swing at the start of January, but with nothing yet agreed, he is free to sign a pre-contract elsewhere – and Reading could lose one of their prized assets for nothing in the summer.
Richards is a typical modern day full-back: skilful, confident on the ball and exciting going forward. This is coupled with his combative, tough-tackling, tenacious side that makes him such an asset defensively.
In the top two tiers of English football, only Manchester United right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka has a higher tackle success rate than Richards’ 83% during the 2020/21 campaign at the time of writing.
The Reading defender has only missed three league games this season, and the Royals have failed to keep a clean sheet in each one, demonstrating the huge defensive influence Richards has.
Richards’ confidence going forward in unsurprising given he spent the majority of his youth career playing further up the field.
He only blossomed into a left-back by chance, having been asked to play there by Reading youth coach David Dodds – supposedly just for one game.
Prior to that, Richards had been a winger or attacking midfielder during his Fulham days, citing David Silva as someone he admired watching play.
Richards grew up in a single-parent household and admitted that if it wasn’t for the dedication of his mum, his professional footballing dreams might never have become a reality.
“I grew up with my mum, single parent, I didn’t see too much of my dad,” Richards told Reading’s official club website in 2019. “I’m fortunate for her making a lot of things work for me.
“I owe a lot of it to my mum. If it wasn’t for her taking me to all these training sessions from such a young age, I’m not sure I would have been so driven and stayed on with football, so a lot of it is down to her.”
You know when footballers write controversial stuff on social media before they’re famous and then it gets dug up years later and they’re fined and forced to apologise?
We think we’ve found the confession that could ruin Richards’ reputation.
In an interview in 2019, the full-back recalled his early days in the Reading academy – and dropped one hell of a bombshell in the process.
“I lived in a digs in Woodley,” Richards said. “It was different living with a different family, living with a dog – I don’t really like dogs very much…
“I remember when my agent first took me to the digs, the dogs came running out the door, I just dropped my bags and ran back to the car!”