Decision time beckons for Sheffield United regarding duo's future at Bramall Lane
Sheffield United are considering whether or not to activate clauses enabling them to sign Panis Retsos and Richairo Zivkovic on a permanent basis, as Chris Wilder’s side continue their preparations for next week’s return to Premier League action.
The duo, on loan from Bayer Leverkusen and Changchun Yatai respectively, remained in England when the season was suspended three months ago because of the Covid-19 pandemic before resuming training ahead of Wednesday’s game against Aston Villa.
United negotiated options on both before bringing them to Bramall Lane in January. But they could be forced to decide if they will be triggered shortly - certainly before the campaign is scheduled to conclude in August.
Despite making only one appearance since joining United, Retsos has already stated he wants to continue working with Wilder’s squad next term.
The centre-half, capped five times by Greece, was described as a “very special talent” by Leverkusen’s sporting director Rudi Voller ahead of his move to South Yorkshire. But with United’s defence emerging as one of the most effective in the top-flight - only runaway leaders Liverpool have conceded fewer goals - Retsos, aged 21, has found it difficult to break into Wilder’s starting eleven.
Like Zivkovic, the former Ajax striker, he was told by Wilder that performances during training would instead be used to judge his suitability for a place in United’s team.
However, with the global health crisis wreaking havoc with finances throughout the game, another factor has now entered the equation. Speaking towards the end of last month, Wilder acknowledged he and a number of other top-flight managers could be forced to redraft their transfer strategies as a result - with only the country’s richest clubs enjoying a degree of protection.
Although both Retsos and Zivkovic have received permission to stay with United beyond the duration of their initial agreements, which had been scheduled to expire on May 30, it is unclear if the time frames within which Wilder must decide their futures have also been relaxed.
Seventh in the table, United will climb to fifth if they win at Villa Park - only two points behind the Champions League qualification positions.