John Souttar: Sheffield United reveal if they must sell before they can attempt to beat Rangers to the Hearts defender

As Sheffield United prepare to battle Rangers and Blackburn Rovers for John Souttar’s signature, manager Paul Heckingbottom has revealed whether he must sell players before attempting to purchase the Heart of Midlothian defender.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 4:50 pm

After making a centre-half his top priority during the transfer window, Heckingbottom confirmed an interest in Souttar earlier this month having been alerted by the Scotland international’s refusal to agree a new contract at Tynecastle.

Appointed in November, Heckingbottom inherited a squad overloaded with attacking options but short of competition in other areas of the pitch.

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Although the progress of talks with Hearts about securing Souttar’s release before he becomes a free agent this summer appear slow - something Heckingbottom denied ahead of Saturday’s game against Derby County - the 44-year-old denied United must raise funds first before submitting a concrete offer.

“We wouldn’t have to sell before we can buy,” Heckingbottom told The Star. “But that could happen, of course. I could turn out that way.

“It’s not a concern, bringing in people after selling. We’ve seen that we are light in some areas and have an abundance in others. During the window, you will see the squad getting balanced and with an age profile.”

John Souttar, the Scotland and Hearts defender, is wanted by Sheffield United, Rangers and Blackburn Rovers: Ross MacDonald / SNS Group

Souttar, aged 25, is minded to pursue a career in England when his deal with Hearts expires. However, Rangers’ ability to offer European football and the potential to amass a handsome collection of medals has clouded his thinking - and seen officials at Ibrox grow increasingly confident they can fend-off competition from Bramall Lane and Ewood Park.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who replaced Steven Gerrard in the Glaswegians’ dug-out before Christmas, is understood to have already made a bid for Souttar’s services.

“We want different players for different positions,” Heckingbottom, who will miss the trip to Pride Park after testing positive for Covid-19, said. “Even if we play the same system, then we can change the dynamic.

“Regarding selling, we want to give some of our players game time. When there’s no game time, then you have players in the squad who are frustrated players and that’s no good for anyone at all.”