Could Sheffield United be set to look overseas for new recruits in January transfer window?

Sheffield United could take their first serious steps into the foreign transfer market during next month’s window after manager Chris Wilder warned that spiralling prices within the Premier League will make it difficult for the club to recruit domestic top-flight talent.

Monday, 23rd December 2019, 8:20 am
Chris Wilder manager of Sheffield Utd celebrates the win during the Premier League match at the American Express Community Stadium, Brighton and Hove. Simon Bellis/Sportimage

United have identified a number of possible targets as they look to build upon an encouraging start to the season, including Everton defender Mason Holgate among those being considered.

But after spending 12 years in the lower divisions before gaining promotion from the Championship last term, Wilder’s employers lack the financial muscle enjoyed by many of their rivals. And that, he conceded, has prompted Bramall Lane’s coaching staff, including head of recruitment Paul Mitchell, to explore a number of potential avenues overseas.

Jan van Winckel, a trusted advisor of United owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, is known to enjoy an extensive list of contacts abroad, including in his native Belgium, and was present when Wilder met with United’s board of directors to discuss strategy in Dubai recently.

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“The foreign market is one we could look at,” Wilder said. “From a Premier League point of view, I’m not sure we’d have the finances to go and do that.”

“We probably won’t be doing two or three permanents so it might be a bit of a mix,” Wilder added. “Always, with a loan, there’s probably an option in the summer.

“There’s ongoing talks between myself and the board.

“We need to lift and invest and hopefully we can make it happen.”

By their own standards, United invested heavily during the close season, breaking their own transfer record three times as the likes of Callum Robinson, Lys Mousset and Oli McBurnie arrived at the Steelphalt Academy training complex.

But the wealth a continued run at the highest level creates was brought into focus ahead of Saturday’s visit to Brighton and Hove Albion, when it emerged the opposition’s owner Tony Bloom has invested around £400m since taking control a decade ago.

A first-half effort from McBurnie proved enough to beat Graham Potter’s side and lift United to within a point of fourth place.

Ollie Watkins is another player Wilder is known to admire. But with Brentford thought to be seeking offers of around £25m before they consider selling the youngster, United could be forced to look further afield after concentrating on signing home-grown players under Wilder’s stewardship.

As The Star revealed before the meeting with Albion at the AMEX Stadium, United also plan to open contract negotiations with John Egan, John Lundstram and Enda Stevens over the coming weeks. Lundstam’s present deal expires this summer.