Sheffield United were powerless to prevent Wolverhampton Wanderers from holding talks with Kevin McDonald, The Star can confirm.
The former Scotland under-21 international held talks with officials at Molineux yesterday after United’s League One rivals submitted an undisclosed bid for his services.
Although the sum involved remains a closely guarded secret, sources in the Midlands last night confirmed it triggered a clause in McDonald’s contract which enabled him to speak with Kenny Jackett’s side.
That is believed to have been inserted into the 24-year-old’s terms of employment when he signed a new deal on the eve of the 2012/13 campaign.
David Weir, the South Yorkshire club’s manager, admitted it would be a “blow” to lose a midfielder of McDonald’s calibre.
But, asked to consider the worst case scenario, he insisted: “We never have been and never will be a one man team. We might not have a like-for-like replacement because every player is different but what we do have is good players who can adapt.”
Given United’s reluctance to see McDonald depart, they could table a counter-offer of their own to his representatives unless the matter is resolved before this afternoon’s fixture at Brentford.
With Wolves still in receipt of a Premier League parachute payment, worth £16m per season, Bramall Lane’s hierarchy would be unable to compete on financial grounds.
But a number of personal incentives could be volunteered to try and persuade him to stay.
McDonald, who becomes a free agent next summer, was on target during last week’s victory over Notts County and excelled during pre-season after being handed the ‘number 10’ role.
Weir, who took charge of United earlier this summer, said: “Money talks in football. That’s a fact.
“It gives you certain privileges but what it doesn’t do is guarantee success.”
“I’ve come into this job with my eyes open,” he added. “Nothing has been hidden or sprung on me.”