Sheffield United: Potential new signing is still waiting for the green light
Nearly a week after he was pictured watching Sheffield United's friendly against Barnsley from the directors' box at Oakwell, Michael Verrips is still attempting to plot a course through the legal minefield standing between him and a move to England.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Verrips, a 22-year-old goalkeeper, believe their client's contract with KV Mechelen was effectively rendered null and void when the Belgian club was found guilty of match fixing. Previously of Sparta Rotterdam and FC Twente, Verrips delivered a registered letter to its board of directors notifying them he was terminating their agreement following a recent investigation by UEFA's ethics and disciplinary inspectorate. Despite previously being admitted into next season's Europa League after beating Gent in the Belgian Cup final, the governing body have now prohibited Mechelen from taking part in the competiton. The u-turn came following a ruling on the matter by the Belgian Court of Arbitration for Sport (BAS).
Predictably, Verrips' actions have angered Mechelen's hierarchy, who are contesting his interpretation of the situation.
Although a statement claimed "It was always possible to talk about a transfer...that could have been a win-win situation," officials at the AFAS-stadion Achter de Kazerne have accused Verrips of exploiting their off-the pitch difficulties to try and force a switch overseas.
With Dean Henderson returning to South Yorkshire on loan from Manchester United and Simon Moore also expected to travel to France for tomorrow's friendly against Stade de Reims, Chris Wilder already has two experienced goalkeepers at his disposal.
But recruiting Verrips would allow Marcus Dewhurst, one of the most promising youngsters to graduate from United's Steelphalt Academy in recent seasons, to follow Jake Eastwood out of Bramall Lane. Eastwood is scheduled to spend the campaign on loan with Scunthorpe, before returning to United next summer. Completing a similar placement could also accelerate Dewhurst's development, rather than spending another campaign working at under-23 level.
Despite their hospitality towards Verrips, United have been careful not to become embroiled in his row with Mechelen, whose difficulties trace back to a crucial game against Waasland-Beveren last year. It is unclear if he will be present at the Stade Auguste-Delaune, where Wilder's squad will complete its preparations for the new Premier League season.
Beerschot Wilrijk, who count United co-owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa'ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as a shareholder, were denied a place in Belgium's top-flight when BAS rejected the Royal Belgian Football Association's (KBVB) attempt to block Mechelen's promotion from the second tier. The KBVB had also been seeking to impose a 12 point penalty after four directors and three player agents were adjudged to have "falsified" the result of Mechelen's meeting with Waasland-Beveren.