x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Long is not short on options in the transfer market

Three Premier League clubs are battling it out to sign the Republic of Ireland striker from Reading.

Shane Long, left, being chased by West Brom players here in a FA Cup match, is in a similar situation on the transfer window.
Shane Long, left, being chased by West Brom players here in a FA Cup match, is in a similar situation on the transfer window.

Three Premier League clubs are battling it out to sign Shane Long, the Republic of Ireland striker, from Reading.

Everton, Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers have all made inquiries about the 24-year-old, who scored 21 goals in 44 appearances last season to fire Reading to the cusp of promotion to the Premier League. None have yet tabled a bid.

The defeat to Swansea City in the Championship play-off final at Wembley Stadium last month means Reading will be unable to resist substantial bids from Premier League clubs for Long and prevent him furthering his career.

Long, who was part of the Republic of Ireland side that stunned Italy, 2-0, in a friendly in Liege on Tuesday night, signed a one-year contract extension last summer and Reading will be acutely aware he could leave the club on a free transfer next season.

John Madejski, the Reading chairman, hailed Long as "world class" after the play-off final defeat and placed a value of £20 million (Dh120.4m) on his head.

While that figure is wildly optimistic, Reading will certainly not part with their prized asset for less than the £3.5m Swansea City paid for Danny Graham, from Championship club Watford, or the £3.2m Norwich City paid Millwall for Steve Morrison, another player from the second tier of English football.

Any bid Reading do accept for Long will represent a significant profit on the €30,000 (Dh161,585) they transferred across the Irish Sea to purchase the striker from Cork City in 2005. Long was part of the same deal that also took Kevin Doyle from Ireland to Reading.

Doyle was signed for €117,000 in 2005 before being sold to Wolves for £6.5m. Stephen Hunt, another Irish bargain buy for Reading, has also ended up, via Hull City, at Wolves and that could be a likely destination for the Gortnahoe-born Long, particularly as Mick McCarthy, the former Ireland manager, is in charge at Wolves who are home to a large Irish playing contingent.

McCarthy purchased Doyle in 2009 and then paid £6.5m for Steven Fletcher last summer so the Wolves board may be reluctant to sanction another large outlay on a forward. However, Wolves were one of the least prolific teams last season and the board may well believe the addition of more firepower would avoid a repeat of the last-day survival drama last month.

Newcastle, meanwhile, have the proceeds from the £35m sale of Andy Carroll to Liverpool in January at their disposal and they have made no secret of the fact they are in the market for a forward this summer.

Alan Pardew, their manager, used to manage Reading and has coached in the Championship so he should be well aware of the ability of Long.

Everton, on the other hand, will be interested in Long as they have been searching for a prolific attacking spearhead for several years.

Louis Saha is as good as any striker in the Premier League on his day but his injury record shows no sign of improving. Neither Victor Anichebe or Jermaine Beckford are able to lead the line effectively as a lone striker, meaning David Moyes, the manager, has often resorted to fielding Tim Cahill, a midfielder, as the apex of the team.

Celtic, the Scottish giants, have also watched Long several times but the striker is thought to want to remain in England