Sheffield United target Ryan Leonard has turned down a new contract at Southend United, and is understood to be keen to leave Roots Hall this summer.
The 25-year-old has a year to run on his current deal in Essex, and rejected a new four-year deal to stay.
United had a bid for Leonard, thought to be in the region of £500,000, rejected on Friday and the midfielder was left out of Southend’s friendly at Braintree Town 24 hours later, with Shrimpers boss Phil Brown admitting Leonard’s “head is all over the place”.
Ron Martin, the Southend chairman, insists that Leonard has withdrawn his official transfer request, but the player is still understood to be keen to leave and test himself in the Championship.
“I had a meeting with Ryan on Saturday morning and, after our talk, he chose not to put in a transfer request,” Martin told the Southend Echo.
“I’ve spoken to him and he knows this is an important year for us with promotion our main objective.
“With that in mind, we won’t be selling our best players because that would weaken our prospects.
“Ryan is a good character, player and person who I like a lot but he still has a year left and it’s his obligation to honour that.
“He isn’t for sale.”
Leonard emerged as a target for United, who are preparing for the Championship after storming to the League One title last term, after he won Southend’s player of the year award for the last two seasons.
He scored the opening goal in a 2-2 draw at Bramall Lane back in November 2015, and has also attracted interest from Millwall this summer.
“We made Ryan a substantial contract offer but he’s chosen to turn it down,” Brown said.
“He wants to play higher than League One and I understand his frustration but we’re saying he’s not for sale.
“He has a year left on his contract and he has to play that for Southend United.
“The club’s position has been consistent throughout and the chairman has told Sheffield United to go away, without being disrespectful.
“I’m happy to hear that because I know how important Ryan is for us.”