Report by leading institution highlights the wisdom of Sheffield United's approach

A report by one of the world’s leading football research centres appears to underline the wisdom of Sheffield United’s decision to renegotiate the contracts of their leading players this term, with its authors estimating the value of squads across Europe could plummet as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuesday, 31st March 2020, 4:59 pm
Updated Tuesday, 31st March 2020, 5:33 pm

The CIES Football Observatory, based at the International Centre for Sports Studies in Neuchatel, Switzerland, has calculated United would be the English club most affected by the crisis if all their players remained on their existing deals and no more games are played until June.

Although Olympique de Marseille were identified as the team with most to lose across Europe - suffering a near 38 per cent drop - CIES analysts predict United would experience a 33 per cent reduction; making them the fifth most exposed side in a sample spanning the top divisions in England, Italy, France, Spain and Germany.

That is around three per cent more than Everton, who are cited as the second most vulnerable member of the Premier League.

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Although United will point to the fact that most of those set to become free agents this summer are now surplus to requirements at Bramall Lane - Ricky Holmes, for example, has not featured for Chris Wilder’s since March 2018 - they have, at the manager’s behest, outlined plans to hand John Lundstram, Chris Basham and Oliver Norwood new agreements after tying Enda Stevens and John Fleck to long-term contracts in recent weeks.

Lundstram is now in the final three months of his present contract but, speaking earlier this term, Wilder confirmed United will trigger a clause entitling them to extend that by a further year.

Coaching staff are confident the midfielder will eventually commit while both Basham and Norwood have publicly stated they want to remain in South Yorkshire.

The CIES used a bespoke algorithm, which takes into account a range of variables including sporting performance, patterns in the global transfer market and previous clubs, to deliver its findings.

Enda Stevens of Sheffield United in action during a pre-season friendly match between Real Betis Balompie and Sheffield United FC at Estadio Algarve on July 12, 2019 in Faro, Portugal: Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

AFC Bournemouth and Manchester City are the other PL clubs facing drops of above 30 per cent while Stade Brestois are cited as the continent’s most protected club.

Chris Wilder, manager of Sheffield United looks on: George Wood/Getty Images
Sheffield United midfielder John Fleck: Simon Bellis/Sportimage