You can call me Hal: What next for Wales Euros star Robson-Kanu?
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | July 6, 2016
Free agent footballers are often ones down on their luck, so to see Hal Robson-Kanu score another memorable goal for Wales (complete with Cruyff turn) at Euro 2016 is the epitome of that sporting cliche about playing yourself into the shop window.
Adaptable Dragons forward Robson-Kanu, 27, has been released by Reading this summer, and mere hours after his contract officially expired he produced a moment of real magic. Let’s relive it:
— The Analysts Eye (@TheAnalysisVids) July 1, 2016
Career crossroads from Robson-Kanu
“I made a decision to run my contract at Reading down,” Robson-Kanu said following his strike against Belgium, which is already etched into Welsh football folklore. Note the wording closely; he made the choice, not the Royals.
“I’ve been there 12 years, given a lot of service and felt it was the best decision for myself and my career,” Robson-Kanu continued. “It’s probably one of the best decisions of my life.”
However much further Chris Coleman can take the Dragons, you can’t help but wonder what lies beyond the immediate future for Robson-Kanu, who has been no less overawed on this grand stage than established star duo Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.
“Desire to play in Premier League”
“I had offers before the tournament. Good offers from good, progressive clubs, but I made a decision to wait,” Robson-Kanu added when asked about this very subject.
“I’ve made no secret of my desire to play in the Premier League. If that’s the best place for me, then I’ll be there.”
And, if the tabloid rumour mill is to be believed, there is interest aplenty from the Premier League in Robson-Kanu, who is 15/8 to score anytime in 90 minutes against Portugal.
Half-a-dozen top-flight clubs, including shock 2015/16 winners Leicester City, plus Scottish Premiership champions Celtic, are all apparently chasing his signature.
Which of these magnificent seven sides would Robson-Kanu do best at? Coral’s football experts run the rule over them below…
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With Champions League football guaranteed for 2016/17, it would appear that throwing his lot in with Leicester is a no-brainer for Robson-Kanu, especially if last term’s PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez leaves the East Midlands.
On the downside, however, his arrival might block the progress of talented Foxes youngsters Demarai Gray and Tom Lawrence, and the latter is a compatriot of Robson-Kanu’s.
A reunion with Brendan Rodgers, who coached Robson-Kanu at Reading and thus helped him make his first-team breakthrough in Berkshire, cannot be ruled out.
The Bhoys are heavily reliant on Leigh Griffiths and, if they are to stave off resurgent Glasgow Old Firms rivals Rangers this coming term, new creativity and support for the star striker is required.
While the promising Patrick Roberts is set to continue his loan from Manchester City, long-serving James Forrest and tricky winger Gary Mackay-Steven require further competition to improve as players.
Robson-Kanu can do that without a doubt, but would a move north of the border be enough of a challenge for a player who has lit up the business end of Euro 2016?
Although Nathan Redmond has been signed by the Saints for £10m from relegated Norwich City to replace Sadio Mane, there is a lack of natural width and attacking options in general on the south coast.
This will only get worse, should the prevailing custom of this club selling its performers continue. Robson-Kanu could probably walk into Southampton’s XI if new boss Claude Puel wants him.
When gaps appear in the Saints’ squad, they traditionally plug by bringing through academy graduates rather than immediately looking to outsiders. On a free, though, Robson-Kanu represents a realistic and sensible target that will add to the ranks at St Mary’s.
Ronald Koeman could rival his former club for Robson-Kanu, but the Toffees must surely sell some of their wide players before this move becomes sensible.
Kevin Mirallas fell notably out of favour with Roberto Martinez last term, but there are also Gerard Deulofeu, Aaron Lennon and Aiden McGeady to consider.
The latter was loaned out to Sheffield Wednesday, but the change of manager at Goodison Park means everyone may be given a second chance. Robson-Kanu looks likely to start on the bench if he chooses Everton.
Another club that has changed coach during the summer. The Hornets have Walter Mazzarri in the Vicarage Road hotseat now and he was famed for playing 3-4-3, all-out attacking football with Napoli.
Where Watford got joy last term was with a willingness to play two up front, though natural width was limited. A lot depends on the direction Mazzarri intends to go in with this mid-table team, who are embarking upon a difficult second successive Premier League season.
For those reasons, Hertfordshire may be one area to avoid when Robson-Kanu is deciding upon his new destination – unless he is prepared to bide his time and see how Mazzarri approaches things with Watford 9/4 to be relegated.
West Bromwich Albion
Compatriot coach Tony Pulis always has time for a fellow Welshman, and The Hawthorns has often been home to a steady stream of players from that country.
The Baggies are good, mid-table stock in no danger of going down under a manager who has never been relegated, but seemingly unable to kick on and do better.
Having just signed Matt Phillips from QPR, West Brom are not short of wide options, but Robson-Kanu may more likely be used a striker by Pulis because of wantaway forward Saido Berahino. Replacing him for free could be a stroke of genius.
You can’t rule out a return to Robson-Kanu’s native land either, and the Swans could well suit. Since Bafetimbi Gomis’ dramatic downturn in form, Francesco Guidolin has often played without a natural centre forward.
Andre Ayew and Gylfi Sigurdsson need some relief from such nominal striking roles, so Robson-Kanu and his international experience of leading an attack could be beneficial to both parties.
It almost seems fitting in a way to have a Welsh hero turn out every other week in front of adoring native fans, though for the record Robson-Kanu was born in the Acton area of Ealing, Greater London.
There’s a whole host of Euro 2016 features like this in Coral’s dedicated section.
Where do you think Robson-Kanu would be best suited to move to next? Let us know in the comments section below!