Three point five million pounds. It can’t get you much these days, especially in footballing terms. It could get you half of Patrick Bamford, roughly 4% of Paul Pogba, or Kylian Mbappe’s right foot. Or, if you like, just over 85,000 chicken balti pies at the Madjeski Stadium.

But it’s also the same amount of money Reading are set to pay Liverpool for Ovie Ejaria at the end of the season, and nobody can seem to work out why. Named as the 70th Best Teenager in The World 2017 by FourFourTwo and dubbed the ‘English Pogba’ on infamous Netflix series Sunderland ‘Til I Die, Ejaria has always been highly-rated, so what led to the Royals purchasing him for such a steal?

Having been released by Arsenal at 16 and reportedly rejecting PSG to join Liverpool in 2014, Jurgen Klopp gave Ejaria his first senior appearances during pre-season of the 2016-17 season. After impressing the German, he earned himself multiple appearances for the first team throughout the following campaign.

In March 2017, Klopp said: “I saw [Ejaria] playing a few times and having him around for four days and seeing him in small spaces in the sessions against the ‘adults’ was very important for him and for me.

“There’s no doubt about the attitude, there’s no doubt about quality - it’s only a question of are they already ready or not? If not, then they still have time. If yes, then lets make the next step.”

Ejaria’s former Liverpool under-23 boss Neil Critchley added: "He has these real ‘wow’ moments which just make you smile because it’s brilliant to watch.

“When he is faced with a defender one-on-one in the penalty area, you sort of feel sorry for the defender because you know there is only going to be one outcome.”

Despite high praise from his Reds bosses, two loan spells before a switch to the Royals ended his five-year spell in Merseyside.

The Independent journalist and Liverpool fan Karl Matchett watched the midfielder closely during his time at Anfield and says that it was through no fault of his own that Ejaria wasn’t successful at the club.

“It didn't work out because we moved up a few levels very quickly and left him behind. Some players just develop a little slower and maybe he needed some time and experience,” said Matchett.

“He was one of the first few to be given a chance under Klopp, so I think that heightened the excitement around him along with some of the bits he'd done at youth level.

“There was no doubting the talent, it was just the usual questions of consistency and maturity.”

With the arrivals of Mo Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, there was no room for Ejaria in Klopp’s plans. He made his first loan switch in the 2017/18 January transfer window, when he moved to Sunderland on Deadline Day.

The Black Cats were 23rd in the Championship when he made the temporary switch to Wearside, with the club looking to bounce back from finishing bottom of the Premier League the season before.

He made 11 appearances at the Stadium of Light but couldn’t prevent them from suffering a consecutive relegation. His only goal for the club came once their fate had already been sealed, as he poked home from close-range against champions Wolves.

Matthew Crichton, a writer for Sunderland fan site Roker Report, insists that it was just wrong place, wrong time for Ejaria at the Stadium of Light.

“We were battling to avoid relegation and needed experienced heads. Instead, we signed the likes of Ashley Fletcher, Jake Clarke-Salter and Ejaria on loan. That trio all enjoyed poor spells with the club but are now playing regular Championship football, so I would say Ejaria just was not the player we needed at that point,” Crichton said.

“It was unrealistic to believe a 20-year-old could be thrown straight into the first team, having never played regular senior football, and instantly hit the ground running, especially in the position we were in.

“We weren’t the right club for him to be thrown in at the deep end. I think the pressure of playing a lead role in front of 40,000 people at a club fighting relegation was too big of an ask.”

Despite a disappointing spell at Sunderland, Ejaria was one of a few youngsters who new Rangers boss Steven Gerrard turned to, as he looked to bolster his squad with some loanees from his former club.

He started brightly, scoring in consecutive games away to Motherwell in the Premiership and a crucial goal against Russian team Ufa in the Europa League, helping secure their spot in the Europa League group stages.

However, a costly mistake in the Old Firm derby against Celtic was the beginning of the end for Ejaria in Scotland, as he failed to track the run of Oliver Ntcham, before the Frenchman netted the game’s winning goal.

Sky Sports journalist and Rangers fan Andrew Dickson says, despite undoubted ability, Ejaria’s lack of fight let him down.

“Rangers fans love players who show commitment on the park, often showing genuine forgiveness for a lack of skill if someone makes up for that with effort and determination, but Ejaria arguably gave them the opposite,” Dickson explained.

“He had the talent yet didn’t apply himself nearly as much as it was thought he would. In a league where character pays off, he didn’t show it enough to make the progress both Rangers and Liverpool hoped for.

“He ultimately grew unsettled in Glasgow and wanted to leave so when he did, it left many fans of the opinion he lacked the mental and physical strength to be deemed a success at Ibrox.”

As mentioned, Ejaria struggled to settle across the border and, despite being involved in almost all of Rangers’ league and European games, the 21-year-old decided to cut his loan short at Rangers.

Reports from Scotland at the time claimed that he didn’t like the physicality in the Scottish Premiership, which led to plenty of criticism from pundits and fans alike. This wasn’t helped by Ejaria unfollowing Rangers on Instagram and deleting all reference to them from his profile before a crucial Europa League tie against Villarreal in December.

Upon Ejaria’s return to Liverpool in January, Gerrard said: “Am I disappointed he’s gone? Yes. Do I think it’s the right decision? No, because I think he had an incredible opportunity here.

“I have to accept the decision. I’m sad about it, I wish him all the best. He’s a nice kid, very quiet. He told me it was 100 percent football reasons and I have to respect that.”

Despite being back at Liverpool after two unsuccessful loan spells, the midfielder was brought in by then Reading boss Jose Gomes in an attempt to remain in the Championship.

Along with the other successful loanees brought in by Gomes, Ejaria helped the Royals avoid the drop, leading to calls from fans to bring him back for at least another season. The Reading owners were unconvinced however, despite Gomes’ desperation to re-sign him for the 2018-19 campaign.

A deal was eventually completed to bring him back on season-long loan on literally the last minute of the transfer window. And, within that, the club also agreed to make the transfer permanent at the end of the current campaign for just £3.5m.

Ejaria has continually wowed Reading fans ever since arriving at the Madjeski, with his nimble footwork and skills that have seemed almost impossible to pull off. He’s made midfielders of the highest order look silly with nutmegs, flicks and dragbacks and, on his day, he’s impossible to stop.

However, there are still many Reading supporters who are continuously frustrated by his dilly-dallying on the ball and reluctance to play the easy pass at times. And, highlighted by his time in Scotland, someone that is 6ft and 165lb shouldn’t be shrugged off the ball as easily as does.

These faults were echoed by others who have watched him at his previous clubs, heavily praising his technical ability and his close control, but criticising his lack of physicality and a tendency to be far too meek on the ball.

At 22, Ejaria is still a few years from his prime though, and it seems unlikely that these things will remain a problem. Before the season was suspended, it was evident that the midfielder had begun to improve on some of those faults and Royals fans can only imagine how dangerous he could be if he were to bulk out slightly.

“He’s still figuring out his role. He’s a good dribbler so sometimes it’s too easy for managers to shove him out wide, but he’s always been a midfielder and that's where he belongs,” says youth football expert Connor Rowden.

“To keep improving, he just needs to keep finding the balance between trying to carry the ball and moving it quickly. Once his one-on-one skills are isolated to times they're actually needed, he'll be more efficient and more productive.

“I think he can be a good Premier League midfielder and, therefore, get in contention for an England cap at some point. I think playing for a top side is probably a step too far, but who knows.

“Like with most players, it's all about the fit and the right coach as to if he hits his ceiling.”

Reading have a history of bargain hunting. The signatures of Kevin Doyle and Shane Long for a combined fee of around about £75k spring to mind but, more recently, Andy Yiadom and John Swift both being brought in on free transfers also looks like shrewd business.

But perhaps the capture of Ejaria for, let me remind you, £3.5m could better all of those, especially if he can continue impressing in Berkshire and begin to fulfil the potential that was expected of him. Cue the Liverpool board scrambling to see if they can cancel that permanent transfer clause…