Bari Capture Striker Once Sold For €7.5 million

Former Reading striker George Pușcaș has left Serie A side Genoa, joining second-tier outfit Bari on loan until the end of the season.

Pușcaș, who is the Royal’s record signing, moves to the Apulian capital, having played there previously. He appeared at the Stadio San Nicola in the 2015/16 season on loan from Inter before he pulled on the blue and white of Reading.

A statement on the Bari official website read: “SSC Bari announces that it has acquired from the Genoa Cricket and Football Club, with the loan formula, the rights to the sporting performances of the footballer George Alexandru Pușcaș. The Romanian striker will immediately be available to coach Marino; he will wear the number ’47’ shirt.”

He joins I Biancorossi as they hunt a return to Serie A, a position they haven’t held since 2010/11. They came close to a return last season, finishing third in the table, but losing the play-off games against Cagliari 2-1 on aggregate. Agonisingly, their opponents got the winning goal into four minutes of injury time, with Bari leading by virtue of finishing higher in the division. This season has not been so successful, as they’re two points outside the play-off pack and 12 from automatic promotion.

Pușcaș had a strong career before turning up at Reading. After breaking through with Romanian top-flight side Bihor Oradea, he earned a move to Inter Milan, appearing four times, including a debut in Europe against Celtic. He had loan spells with Bari (four goals in 16), Benevento (five in 28), and Novara (nine in 19) before being sold to Palermo for €3.25 million (£2.79 million). Following their relegation to Serie D, he was bought back by Inter, as was their contractual right.

That led him to Berkshire, and a move worth €7.5 million (£6.44 million) plus €2 million (£1.72 million) in bonuses. That made him their most expensive signing ever, a record that still stands today. His first season with Reading, the ill-fated COVID-19 season, was a moderate success, with 12 goals from 38 games in the Championship and 14 in 42 in total. Three of those goals came in one encounter – during Reading’s game with Wigan, he hit a hat trick in four minutes and 54 seconds.

The next two seasons were not as productive, with injuries and poor form leading to five goals in 46 Championship games. He left on loan, first joining Pisa and then Genoa before he left the Madejski for good this summer. Il Vecchio Balordo paid a fee reported to be around €1.8 million (£1.55 million) for his services.

However, his playing time with the Serie A side has been limited to just eight games and no goals. His international aspirations have not been hit by his lack of match action – he has 11 goals in 40 outings for his nation, most recently bagging against Israel in November.

Site Opinion

Pușcaș, on paper, wasn’t a huge flop in his first season, but he got a reputation for missing more chances than he scored. 12 league goals isn’t bad, but it’s not great for a club record signing, and the years that followed were worse. He wasn’t helped by injury in the 20/21 season, plus a loss of form. At times, he really didn’t suit Reading’s setup, and when he did move in the summer, few mourned the departure.

The move to Bari could be interesting – they’re a huge club for Serie B, with a 60,000-capacity stadium that was purpose-built for the 1990 World Cup. It even hosted the third-place play-off between England and Italy and has seen the likes of David Platt grace its turf. Bari have also had Paul Rideout and Gordon Cowans wear their colours, and they’re eager to get back into the top flight.

Bari is the capital of Apulia, a region, often frowned upon by the wealthy north of Italy. With local rival Lecce in the top flight, there’s a burning desire for Bari to return there – think Newcastle and Sunderland, and you’re just about there. If Pușcaș scores goals for them, he’ll never pay for a meal in the city again.

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