We were promised signings and even before the transfer window opens it looks like we've made our first move with the news that we've signed Portuguese defender/midfielder Daniel Carrico. So what do we know about him and what does this mean for the squad?
Firstly the basics. Portuguese born Carrico turned 24 in August, and is listed at around 5'10", having signed for Sporting Lisbon from Estoril Praia at the age of 12. He made his first team debut at just 20 in 2008 and has since gone on to make around 120 appearances including games in the Champions League and the Europa League.
He's also played at youth level for Portugal but has yet to earn a callup to the full national side.
Coming through the ranks, Carrico was a highly touted prospect, attracting interest from a host of top sides including Real Madrid, Manchester United and Manchester City. However, for whatever reason no moves ever materialised and the defender who was rated at around £15m at the time, remained with Sporting,
More recently he became involved in a contract dispute and with just a year on his deal remaining, was used sparingly by Lisbon until now when he's been sold for a fee reported to be in the £600k-£750k range plus future consideratons.
On his reasons for leaving Carrico had this to say on the club's website.
"I'm leaving the club in my heart, where I had the privilege of graduating and serving for several years,"
"I leave because I understand that I am at a stage in my career in which I have to take chances. Moreover, the proposed project is extremely exciting one to me and I know I can succeed."
That's the official bit and now it remains to be seen what we've bought.
This scouting report from two years ago gives a few interesting insights and by the sounds of it he's a bit of a Noel Hunt in that he's not tall but has a good leap that lets him compete. Certainly at 5'10 he's not going to win too much standing still. The report mentions how he's comfortable on the ball and makes runs forward, which sounds a bit David Luiz to me, a good or bad thing depending on your opinion of the Chelsea defender! However two years is a long time in football and given that it's one source it should be taken which a heavy pinch of caution.
He's not got much of a goalscoring pedigree though, with just four professional goals to his name, so I wouldn't expect to see his name on the scoresheet anytime soon.
The biggest initial querey seems to be whether he's more of a defender or a midfielder. It certainly seems as if he's spent the bulk of his time as a centre-back but has played in midfield before, especially last season. If we continue with the Luiz comparison it could well be the same sort of scenario, while Reading's own current holding midfielder Mikele Leigertwood spent many years as a defender before moving into the middle.
When we asked Sporting blog Leoes/Lions about Carrico they gave us a short summary on Twitter.
"He is good, altough his development has stalled. May need a while to get back to form as he hasn't played much!"
While Sports correspondant for CNN Pedro Pinto commented.
"He's a solid defender. Has captained Sporting in the past. Not very fast though, could struggle to adapt to pace of PL."
On that issue, Caricco has featured in just 3 games for Sporting this season, all of them coming from the bench at a combined pitch time of just 58 minutes according to ESPN. Given that he hasn't yet formally signed or trained with the team, I'd be very surprised to see him feature against Crawley or even West Brom on the 12th, with the Newcastle game on the 19th looking like a more realistic time to bed in and feature.
Whether he'll be coming in as a defensive midfielder or as a centre back is also up for debate. It sounds as if in his early career he was very much moulded as a defender, which would be bad news for one of Mariappa or Alex Pearce. Pearce in particular looks to be in danger, as given his ongoing contractual issues, Reading now have increased their leverage to once again drop the defender.
The other casualty could well be Mikele Leigertwood whose performances have been far from ideal and on Saturday managed to complete less than 50% of his passes according to Opta. That's a technical failure that you can't live with in the Premier League and someone with a bit more composure in front of the back four would be very welcome.
Having not seen the guy play I'm reluctant to pass any judgements and especially when it's a player who few commentators have seen in any great detail. From what we do know it looks as if we're signing someone who as recently as two years ago had massive amounts of potential and that's a good sign.
It's also a good sign he was made captain, although so was Matt Mills....
On the flip side we're also signing someone who's stock has fallen so low, that with all due respect to the club we love, he's ended up with the team bottom of the Premier League. While his contractual dispute explains such a low fee, it's surprising that no other club has taken a gamble on him.
There's also the worry that with so little football in the past 8 months, his development has hit a big snag. Even last season he made just 16 starts, and a player with 16 starts in 1 & 1/2 seasons does raise the scepticism levels a touch.
However, clubs miss talent all the time, just look at Swansea's latest star Michu who according to press reports today was offered to seven English clubs who passed on him. Not to mention our own stellar record of turning relatively unfancied youngsters like Kevin Doyle, Shane Long, James Harper, Nicky Shorey and Steve Sidwell into established Premier League players.
Then again the last Portuguese player we signed didn't pan out quite so well, and worryingly he was also a player who was never quite defined as a centre-back or midfielder. Khalifa Cisse signed for £1 million as a 22 year old from Boavista was generally underwhelming in his one Premier League season and hardly set the Championship on fire with either Reading or Bristol City and now plays in the MLS.
"Kalifa is a 6ft 2in central midfielder who has also played in defence.
"He has real athletic ability and the technical attributes that should be well-suited to the Premiership."
Yeah well that one worked out didn't it Nick?....
Still, lets not dwell on the past and just because Cisse was badly scouted has nothing to do with Carrico, or so we hope. The positives here is that we've signed someone who's been well regarded in the past, still has time to develop and joins as early as possible in the transfer window. It's also a good sign of intent to other potential recruits that we're serious about staying up and keeps players like Pearce, Mariappa and Leigertwood even more on their toes.
I'm very much hoping we've bought someone when their stock is low and that he'll turn into another Michu rather than gambling on a prospect on the wane, or a mis-scouted ill fitted player like Cisse.
Time will tell but it's great to see the wallet already being opened before we've welcomed in the new year!