Sheffield United: Fresh twist in Chris Wilder's pursuit of Southend's Ryan Leonard
Sheffield United's pursuit of Ryan Leonard has taken a fresh turn, with the player keen to leave Southend.
The Shrimpers are understood to have knocked back bids for Leonard, their reigning player of the year, from United and Millwall, and took up the option to extend his contract by a further year. Ambitious Southend chairman Ron Martin also said that Leonard would be offered a new deal, but sources in 'Southend suggest that Leonard wants a move.
Chris Wilder, the Blades boss, identified Leonard as a target after his side sealed promotion to the Championship by winning the League One title.
Phil Brown's Southend finished last season a point outside the play-offs, and Martin is loath to lose his best player if they are to go one better next time around.
"I've met with Lenny and I've told him we don't want to sell him," Martin told the Southend Echo last week.
"We've rejected offers from two clubs for him. Our ambition is to get promoted from this league and to get into the Championship so it makes no sense to sell our best players. We will be offering him a substantially improved contract and he will receive that this week."
Bolton, who were also promoted alongside United and Millwall, are also thought to be interested in the 25-year-old. Brown has previously insisted that Leonard won't be sold on the cheap: “Things are bubbling along where Lenny is concerned but we’ve put a not for sale sign on his head at the moment and will do all we can to keep him,” he said.
“The chairman has met with Lenny for talks but we’ve had two more clubs come in for him from the Championship. There’s a lot of interest but we’ve knocked back all the bids so far.”