Iliman Ndiaye: Sheffield United youngster is told he can make an immediate impact at Bramall Lane
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Sheffield United manager, has welcomed the fact that Iliman Ndiaye is now free to concentrate on football rather than his contractual issues after signing a new deal with the Championship club.
Although he did not refer to the matter explicitly, Jokanovic appeared to confirm that internal politics were responsible for limiting the midfielder’s opportunities following his breakthrough towards the end of last season.
As The Star first revealed, some members of United’s hierarchy felt Ndiaye should not be considered for first team selection after refusing to accept the first proposal tabled with his representative when talks about improving his terms and conditions first began in March.
Despite impressing on his senior debut as a second half substitute against Leicester City, the 21-year-old failed to make another first team appearance until August - when Jokanovic picked him for the EFL Cup victory over Derby County.
However, after also being invited to travel with the squad to last month’s game against Luton Town, Ndiaye ended months of speculation about his future by putting pen to paper on a long-term agreement during the international break.
“Iliman, for different reasons, he started pre-season with me and then he stopped pre-season with me,” said Jokanovic, who suggested the Frenchman could be involved when United face Peterborough tomorrow. “He can play in between the lines, he can go forward, he can assist and he is a different kind of player to the others in my team. He is at the optimal age to be competing at senior level too.”
Rather than provoking a direct confrontation with those officials who felt it was wrong to utilise Ndiaye until his situation was resolved, Jokanovic sought to bring about a resolution by applying subtle pressure on the youngster’s detractors having identified his potential soon after taking charge in July. By including Ndiaye in the party which spent a week in Spain earlier this summer, the Serb adroitly signalled his dissatisfaction with the fact his development was being hampered. Likewise, now an agreement has been reached, Jokanovic’s decision to lavish praise on the former Boreham Wood player ahead of the meeting with Darren Ferguson’s side was designed to distance himself from the negotiating tactics some influential figures behind the scenes felt were necessary when Ndiaye’s agent informed them his client had been advised not to accept their opening offer.
It was also telling that, after being asked to outline the qualities Conor Hourihane, Robin Olsen and Morgan Gibbs-White will bring to United after arriving on loan during the closing stages of the transfer window, Jokanovic chose to talk about Ndiaye’s prospects as well.
“I have a sensation that he can play for us and help us immediately,” Jokanovic said. “For me, he is good on the training ground and now we’ll see how good he is on the pitch.”
Ndiaye, who turns 22 in March, attracted interest from a number of Premier League and Championship clubs over the summer before committing himself to United until 2024. Previously of Marseille, he joined United two years ago following an impressive spell in Hertfordshire.