Sheffield United: How Blades could be trying to change power dynamic in transfer market
Given the way the transfer system operates, especially for clubs in the Premier League, it should come as no surprise to learn that Sheffield United, after relentlessly pursuing four potential targets, have supposedly scribbled two more onto their summer wanted list.
Celtic's Scott Sinclair and Paddy McNair, the Middlesbrough defender, are both being linked with moves to Bramall Lane. Even though, according to sources in London and South Wales, Swansea City's Oli McBurnie, Brentford's Neal Maupay and Luke Freeman of Queens Park Rangers are already the subject of serious interest from Chris Wilder's team.
Of course, this unexpected change in direction does not mean the trio are no longer viewed as possible acquisitions. The pursuit of McBurnie, who was born in Leeds but has been capped by Scotland, appears unaffected by these latest developments. However, courting McNair and Sinclair could impact upon Maupay and Freeman. And this, given the horsetrading and politicking which goes on behind the scenes, is why United's apparent willingness to explore alternative options is wholly predictable.
Earlier this week, after helping his employers celebrate their record breaking shirt sponsorship, Wilder made himself available for interview with the invited journalists. Inevitably, the talk quickly turned to recruitment with United's manager acknowledging the market was proving slow.
"We have identified players and a little bit of a strategy and thinking of who we want, Wilder said. "Players of a certain age with a hunger and desire to go and compete in the Premier League and prove themselves. There are a lot of names bandied about, but we are hopeful now."
"A lot of people have been away and taking holidays and we have been getting international dialling tones whether it is players, agents or managers or whatever," he continued. "But now everybody is back and I think in the next week or two that everything will kick on and we are confident we will start some names come in and get them done permanently."
But with smartphones and laptops meaning people can broker deals on the beach or inside their holiday villas, geography is no longer an obstacle to doing business. After all, meetings with Manchester United, designed to see goalkeeper Dean Henderson return to South Yorkshire on loan, have taken place on a regular basis.
The real explanation for the lack of progress, across the division as a whole, is almost certainly a combination of spiralling wage demands, ambitious valuations and the influence of agents, who often view individual agreements as pieces in a wider chess game. Particularly as many clubs now utilise their services themselves; a trend which means those with a stable of in-demand players often propose and then broker numerous arrangements before triggering a domino effect.
Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter
By casting admiring glances in the direction of Sinclair and McNair, United can attempt to change that power dynamic. It also places Wilder in a no lose situation because the duo, if they do join his squad, would be impressive purchases. Capable of being deployed in a variety of attacking roles, Sinclair boasts a wealth of experience after spending three years in the Old Firm goldfish bowl. McNair, another versatile performer, is equally well-versed at handling pressure having progressed through the youth system at Old Trafford. And, as The Star have revealed, United are keen to acquire another centre-half to prevent injury or suspension influencing tactics next term.
Of course, making it known fresh opportunities have emerged provides those negotiating on Wilder's behalf with greater leverage during their discussions elsewhere. If suggestions that Maupay and Freeman are interested in exploring the possibility of joining United are correct, recent developments could exert pressure on their employers to accelerate talks.
Like McNair, Freeman can play in a number of different positions. And, like the youngster, he fits within United's budget although, with Stevenage entitled to a percentage of any future sale, Rangers will be reluctant to haggle over the asking price.
Maupay's situation appears even more delicate, with Seville reportedly ready to challenge United for the Frenchman's services. Quite legitimately, his representatives will use that competition to try and drive up the wage packages being offered to their client. But sources within the game describe Maupay as someone who puts football before finance.
Although he has refused to provide a "running commentary" on their preparations for the new season, which begins at AFC Bournemouth on August 10, Wilder is "confident" United are viewed as an attractive proposition after securing promotion from the Championship last term.
"We're a historic club, with great support and people who want to keep moving forward," he said. "I think that's something people will want to be a part of."