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Home   /   Reading’s wonderkid Michael Olise named EFL Young Footballer of the Year: What does the future hold for him?
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The Sky Bet Championship has become an incredible hub for talented and exciting young footballers potentially looking to make their mark amongst the elite in the Premier League and around Europe. We’ve already seen a few players blossom in the England’s second-division and go onto make their name within the English top-flight.

Players like Harry Kane, Jack Grealish, James Maddison, Said Benrahma, Eberechi Eze, Dan James, Andy Robertson, Harry Maguire, Jude Bellingham and a few other noticeable names have been propelled to universal stardom as a result of their time in the division. Currently, the Championship is still birthing some more sparkling wonderkids; Emi Buendia, David Brooks, Todd Cantwell, Ismaïla Sarr, Max Aarons, players who have had a taste of the Barclays Premier League but still feel another year in the second division will certainly aid their development and push them to thrive amongst the elite in future.

There is a few more but one player currently regarded as the most exciting of the bunch, currently undergoing a remarkable breakthrough campaign in the Championship as one of the hottest prospects in the division is Reading’s 19-year-old wonderkid Michael Olise.

Seven goals and 10 assists so far this campaign is an incredible return for a player currently lauded one of the best teenagers in the country and with an EA Young Player of The Season at the EFL awards to boot, the 19-year-old is well on his way to national stardom. Olise has been a revelation and a key cog in Reading’s push for automatic promotion from the Championship as they sit in fourth place, a few points off Swansea in second.

Michael Olise is born of Nigerian, Algerian and French descent through his father and mother respectively. The midfielder grew up in Hammersmith, London, and joined Chelsea’s youth academy until he was released followed by a short and unsuccessful spell in Manchester City’s youth ranks in before joining Reading in July 2015.

Olise made his Royals under-18s debut in January 2018 and his first team debut 14 months later in March 2019 at home to Leeds in the Championship aged just 17. Ever since then, Olise hasn’t looked back, appearing 19 games for Reading (13 starts) last season under previous boss Mark Bowen. This season under Veljko Paunovic, Olise has begun to reach new heights under the Serbian stewardship, even going on to dub the infamous number 7 shirt for the club.

“First of all, I am very happy for him. He deserved it [receiving the Young Player of the Season award].

“He worked hard, he loves football, he loves to train, he is very passionate about the game.

“He is almost picky in his performances. If he doesn’t have a perfect performance, he can get disappointed, Reading boss Veljko Paunovic said of his star man.

“But that is because he is young. He will learn how to deal with adversities. That’s where he has to get better.”

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In July 2019, he signed his professional contract with Reading, scoring his first league goal for the club against in September, volleying home in the 76th minute against Barnsley at the Madejski Stadium. A few months later, the midfielder has proven a pivotal part of Reading’s rise so far this season, making him one of the country’s most exciting and prestigious young talents.

“He was maybe the most wonderful and fantastic talents I’ve ever worked with,” Jose Gomes, the former Reading manager who gave Olise his senior debut said of his former player.

“And see – I’ve worked with very strong academies in Porto, Benfica, Panathinaikos, Malaga, with a lot of important and big talents.” Michael Olise has rapidly become Reading’s showstopper over the past year, the main event in a team that has grown considerably under the tutelage of Serbian coach Veljko Paunovic.

The French under-18 international is an incredibly versatile footballer. Under Paunovic, he’s been utilised in a variety of roles in attack; on the left-wing, right-wing, centre-midfield and at no.10 and you needn’t ask why he’s been asked to fulfil such roles.

Indeed, Olise is the main creative hub of this Reading side, and its shown in his 10 assists so far this campaign. An incredible player to watch, one whose abilities has made him a joy to behold on so many occasions this season but one which has also seen him take up some key responsibilities in the team even at the age of just 19.

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This is a talent with incredible ball-carrying skills, blessed with such unique artistry, wonderful technique, sumptuous vision, and an understanding of the game that has elevated him to ground-breaking heights so far this campaign.

Olise is simply outstanding with the ball at his feet, when he has it, something special happens, whether it’s through an elegant dribble past his marker, a progressive run to build an attack or a devastating eye of the needle pass for his forwards, he is a master of the creative arts. Ten assists, 1.6 key passes and 1.1 dribbles, he is amongst the best in the division for progressive and smart passes.

“At times, he had this little bit of arrogance about him in training,” says Mark Bowen, Reading’s former director of football and then replaced Gomes in 2019. “If he overstepped the mark with it, which he did once or twice, you’d have players like Liam Moore (Reading captain), who would fly in and leave something on him.”

With a player who possesses Olise’s abilities, you’d be surprised if defenders do not get agitated with his sumptuous technical skills and outrageous showboating.

Bowen added, “The one thing that really stood out for me was even during these training sessions, even if he got clobbered or clumped by any player, he would get straight back up. That was unusual because young players coming, they are often fragile and often a little bit of a shrinking violet. Michael isn’t like that.”

What stands out in Olise’s game is his incredible knack of picking the right passes at the right moments but also his understanding of where to position himself in order to become an influential figure in an attacking move.

Olise is always scanning his surroundings, finding space between the lines, painting a picture in his head before receiving the ball; all traits of a seasoned creator. He’d make established stars such as Kevin De Bruyne or Bruno Fernandes take notice.

Olise possesses a wand of a left foot, a first touch to die for and a dribbling ability that leaves even the best defenders bamboozled. He doesn’t mind receiving the ball in tight areas or when surrounded with two or three players, he always finds a way to overcome it with such devastating ease and deceptive movement.

He is a player full of highlight reels. He’s attempted 104 dribbles at the time of writing, and completed 71 of them so far this season. Olise’s had a hand in 35% of Reading’s goal so far this season, a staggering statistic, truly representing his stark influence in this Reading team.

It’s extraordinary to find that there is a supposed release clause in Michael Olise’s current contract of just £8million. For such a small sum money Reading will certainly be bombarded with a whole host of calls from potential suitors for Olise’s services. It is looking increasingly likely the 19-year-old will leave the Madejski Stadium at the end of the season, especially with the club spending another year in the Championship.

Despite his individual brilliance, making the step up will not be easy and his manager Veljko Paunovic acknowledges that:

“He has to also acknowledge and appreciate himself more because he demands so much from himself that sometimes he doesn’t understand that goes against him and consequently against the team.

“Again, when he works for the team, his individual qualities have been highlighted much more.

“He can enjoy the game more and can improve in his execution, I think he can score more goals and have more courage without the ball.

“All these things he is aware of. We’ve measured his progress together. Huge credit to him, he has done great.”

Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur, Crystal Palace and Arsenal have all been credit with holding an interest in the player and while it will be incredibly vital for Olise to keep his feet firmly grounded, there can be no doubting of Olise’s abilities to make it at the top level in the near future.

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July 2024