Sheffield United: Blades hope Liverpool connections could help end their search for a centre-half

Sheffield United believe their contacts at Liverpool, which have paved the way for two key players to make the move from Anfield to Bramall Lane over the past year-and-a-half, could help Paul Heckingbottom end his search for a new centre-half.

Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 5:00 am

Rhys Williams and Nathaniel Phillips, two of Jurgen Klopp’s back-up defenders, have both attracted interest from United since John Souttar, one of their former transfer targets, reached a pre-contract agreement with Rangers after rejecting fresh terms with Hearts.

With Heckingbottom warning that the pressure being placed on squads by the Covid-19 pandemic means even some top-flight clubs are reluctant to sanction ant departures until the closing days of the window, he hopes the connections United’s scouting and analysis department enjoy in the North-West will pave the way for either Williams or Phillips to cross the Pennines.

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Their team mate Ben Davies completed a loan move to Heckingbottom’s employers in August, which saw him join former Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster at United.

Paul Mitchell, Heckingbottom’s head of recruitment, is known to enjoy a good relationship with a number of his counterparts and sporting directors across the Premier League. Former manager Chris Wilder, now in charge of Middlesbrough, was responsible for hiring Mitchell and spoke of his meetings with one of the country’s leading sides, believed to be Chelsea, before leaving in March last year.

Mitchell was also involved in the process which saw Brewster become United’s record signing following his £23.5m move from Liverpool 15 months ago. Together with Wilder, he also helped compile a dossier on Davies when it became clear he would be leaving Preston North End midway through last season.

David McGoldrick of Sheffield United tussles with Nathaniel Phillips of Liverpool last season: Andrew Yates/Sportimage

Although he eventually joined Klopp’s squad, the German sanctioned Davies’ temporary switch to United when Slavisa Jokanovic, Heckingbottom’s immediate predecessor, resurrected their interest in August.

After brokering a deal for Stoke City goalkeeper Adam Davies, United are keen to increase their defensive options before the end of the month.

Williams, aged 20, was recently recalled from a spell on loan at Swansea City. Phillips, aged 24, has previously completed a Stuttgart. However, Newcastle and West Ham are also thought to be keen on acquiring his services.

Rhys Williams of Liverpool: Phil Noble - Pool/Getty Images