ADRIAN Popa will return to Reading FC this summer in a bid to force his way into Paul Clement's first-team plans.

The 29-year-old winger was loaned out to Saudi Arabian side Al-Taawoun after a bust-up with former Royals boss Jaap Stam.

Rumours circulated that Popa was set to return to his former club, Romanian side Steaua Bucharest, on an initial loan deal.

However, the rumours were false and a source close to Popa revealed Steaua have not made an official approach.

A source said: “There is nothing in the speculation linking Adrian to Steaua Bucharest.

“He will be back at Reading FC for pre-season training.”

The Reading Chronicle has been told the departure of Stam in March has paved the way for Popa to make a return to Madejski Stadium this summer.

He has been told to report to Hogwood Park by new boss Clement and will compete for a spot in the first team.

Popa still has a year left on his contract with Royals after joining from Steaua Bucharest in January 2017.

The winger had hoped that first-team football would help him find a way back into the Romanian national side.

But he found himself frozen out under Stam and was loaned to Al-Taawoun in January, while fellow winger Roy Beerens was sold to Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem.

But Stam was left short of options out wide when Garath McCleary broke his ankle in a 3-1 home defeat to Sheffield Untied in February, leaving him with just two first-team wingers to pick from in Mo Barrow and Sone Aluko.

Stam was replaced by Clement the following month after one win in 19 league games, with the new Royals manager insisting he was keen to introduce an attacking style of play and use pacey wingers.

Royals had been linked with a move for Derry City wide-man Ronan Curtis, but the 22-year-old was snapped up by League One outfit Portsmouth.

Unconfirmed reports also suggest that Clement is weighing up a move for out of contract Barnsley winger Adam Hammill, having already landed his Tykes team-mate, Andy Yiadom, on a free last week. 

But the 47-year-old could still put his faith in Popa, who has made 16 appearances for the Royals, scoring one goal.

He starred in Reading's 2-1 victory over promotion-chasing Aston Villa at Madejski Stadium last season.

Clement will also assess young winger Yakou Meite, who will return to Hogwood from a season-long loan at French side Socheux.

Meanwhile, Clement is thought to be eyeing a move for Portsmouth defender, Matt Clarke, and Czech Republic striker, Michael Krmencik, who plays for Viktoria Plzen.