Reading target and former Arsenal star Theo Walcott is set to announce his retirement from football at the age of 34, according to talkSPORT.
The winger spent the last three seasons with boyhood club Southampton but his contract expired by the end of the 2022/23 campaign which saw the Saints relegated back down to the Championship for the first time in over a decade.
Walcott has been a free agent all summer and a transfer target for numerous clubs including League One outfit Reading, Premier League side Bournemouth and unnamed second-tier clubs, as per journalist Darren Witcoop.
Witcoop also revealed that the ex-Gunners forward was training with Ruben Selles’ first-team back in July in an attempt to get fit, leaving the Royals with a chance of securing his signature.
Selles was Walcott’s head coach at Southampton and admitted that the veteran would be welcomed as a new signing should he want to stay at the Madejski Stadium permanently [quotes via the Reading Chronicle]:
“He is at the bit in his life where he has to decide what is his next step. Because of the relations we had from Southampton he came and made training.”
“If he wants to play football we will be here for him, but he was just a player who wanted some training before he made the decision.
“It would be exciting for me to have a player like Theo up front for us but we don’t need to push those things.”
Unfortunately, Selles and Reading look likely to miss out on adding Walcott to the squad as the player is now set to announce his retirement.
This news comes a day after it was announced that Reading would be docked a further point due to a failure to pay wages on three separate occasions.
Many might feel as though it’s strange for a player to retire at 34 but it must not be forgotten that Walcott’s professional playing career has spanned back as far as the 2005/06 season when Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea won their second-consecutive Premier League title.
The ex-England attacker made his debut for the national side aged 17 under Sven Goran Eriksson and was even shockingly named in the Three Lions’ squad for the 2006 World Cup in Germany – a tournament that many reading this won’t even remember.
Walcott has had a long, successful career in the top flight of English football and so if he feels it’s time to now retire, who can blame him?