Sheffield United: Events nearly 100 miles away could help The Blades land one of their leading targets

As work aimed at strengthening Sheffield United's squad ahead of the new Premier League campaign continues behind the scenes, Bramall Lane's transfer brokers hope events 80 miles to the south will enhance their chances of reaching an agreement with one of Chris Wilder's leading targets.

By James Shield
Friday, 14 June, 2019, 13:23
Brentford's Neal Maupay has also attracted interest from abroad. Photo credit should read: Ian Walton/PA Wire.

Although supporters of the 51-year-old's side have spent the first part of the summer casting envious glances in the direction of Aston Villa, where three new players have already arrived, Dean Smith's decision to sign two new attackers could make the Midlands a less desirable destination for Brentford's Neal Maupay.

The Frenchman has attracted interest from both United and Villa Park since scoring 28 goals and claiming nine assists in all competitions last term. But with Smith completing deals for Club Brugge centre-forward Wesley Moraes and Birmingham City's attacking midfielder Jota, Maupay and his representatives could decide opportunities are more likely to prove forthcoming in South Yorkshire than at the former European champions, who have also exercised their option to purchase Anwar El Ghazi. The Dutchman, previously on-loan from Lille, also operates in an advanced position.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Although officials at Griffin Park are under no pressure to sell Maupay, he has already made noises about advancing his career in the top-flight of English football. Brentford are likely to demand at least £20m if they do decide to part company with the 22-year-old, who is also thought to be being monitored by another newly promoted club Norwich City.

Despite waiting to show their hand in the transfer market, Wilder presented United's hierarchy with a list of potential acquisitions before the window opened a little over four weeks ago. Oli McBurnie, the Swansea City centre-forward, features among the names he identified together with Middlesbrough's Britt Assombalonga and former loanee Dean Henderson. Talks with the latter's parent club Manchester United are known to have taken place before he travelled to Italy and San Marino, where he will represent England under-21's at the forthcoming European Championships. United would have preferred to resolve Henderson's future before the tournament starts but remain confident the goalkeeper will return. Reports in South America have also linked Antonio Valencia, who recently left Old Trafford, with United as Wilder looks to increase his options at wing-back. Given the demands of the 3-5-2 system which helped them finish second last season, United believe providing cover for George Baldock, Enda Stevens and Kieron Freeman could prove beneficial over the coming months.

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With the High Court hearing designed to settle the dispute between co-owners Kevin McCabe and HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa'ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud now over - Mr Justice Fancourt finished listening to witness evidence last week - United's focus can return to preparing Wilder's team for August's opener against AFC Bournemouth.

Ideally, the majority of the re-shaping process will be completed before they head to Portugal for warm-weather training and a friendly against Real Betis next month. But the complexity of contracts at the highest level means is likely to continue right up until two days before United travel to the Vitality Stadium.

Sheffield United's Chris Wilder and his assistant Alan Knill: Steve Ellis
Brentford's Neal Maupay celebrates scoring one of his 28 goals: Ian Walton/PA Wire.