Revealed: The evidence which convinced Sheffield United Anel Ahmedhodzic was the right man

Amid the mountain of material used to research Anel Ahmedhodzic, which included footage of his Champions League performances for Malmo against Juventus and Chelsea, Paul Heckingbottom has revealed it was the defender’s displays whilst on international duty with Bosnia and Herzegovina which persuaded Sheffield United he would be the perfect addition to their defence.
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Sheffield United: Why Anel Ahmedhodvic could prove to be a 'steal' in the transf...

After scoring his first goal since arriving at Bramall Lane earlier this summer, during Wednesday’s win over Sunderland at Bramall Lane, Ahmedhodzic is expected to make his latest appearance in United colours when Blackburn Rovers visit South Yorkshire this weekend.

The ease with which the 23-year-old has adapted to United’s system, which requires their centre-halves to both repel and instigate attacks, has come as a surprise to some given the demands it places upon Heckingbottom’s players.

Anel Ahmedhodzic of Sheffield United (C) celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane against Sunderland: Lexy Ilsley / SportimageAnel Ahmedhodzic of Sheffield United (C) celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane against Sunderland: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage
Anel Ahmedhodzic of Sheffield United (C) celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane against Sunderland: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage
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But speaking after watching Ahmedhodzic add to his collection of man-of-the-match awards with another accomplished performance in midweek, United’s manager explained why neither he nor his coaching staff are among them.

“Malmo, especially in Europe, they went about things in a different way to how we do it here,” Heckingbottom said. “But Bosnia, they want their lads at the back to step out more and that’s the same as we ask them to do here. You could see Anel doing it there, for them, and so we knew he could do it and would be comfortable playing that way as well.”

Ahmedhodzic proved his defensive capabilities during Malmo’s march into the group stages of the CL last term, which saw him face the likes of Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Paulo Dybala before the Swedes eventually bowed out of the competition.

Anel Ahmedhodzic is a threat at both ends of the pitch for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / SportimageAnel Ahmedhodzic is a threat at both ends of the pitch for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Anel Ahmedhodzic is a threat at both ends of the pitch for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Acquired for £3m, the money United invested to acquire Ahmedhodzic’s services already looks like a bargain although, if he continues in the same vein, Heckingbottom’s marquee summer signing is bound to attract the attention of rival clubs at the end of the present campaign; whether United gain promotion from the Championship or not.

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“We knew exactly what we were getting with Anel,” Heckingbottom said. “Because of the matches he’d been involved in before coming here. I think what struck a chord with him was the fact that we first went for him in January and then maintained that interest all the way through.

“We gave him a presentation, showed him what we wanted him to do, and he thought it really suited him.”

Anel Ahmedhodzic is set to face Blackburn Rovers this weekend: Lexy Ilsley / SportimageAnel Ahmedhodzic is set to face Blackburn Rovers this weekend: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage
Anel Ahmedhodzic is set to face Blackburn Rovers this weekend: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage

Having started his professional career with Nottingham Forest, Ahmedhodzic joined Malmo in January 2019 before completing spells on loan with Hobro IK and Bordeaux. He had been destined to join the French club before a financial imposition saw them relegated to the Championnat National, although they were later allowed to compete in Ligue 2 following a successful appeal against that sanction.

Jan Dahl Tomasson, the former Malmo manager, is now in charge of Rovers and also attempted to lure Ahmedhodzic back to England during the close season.

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The Dane’s knowledge of his game means this weekend’s fixture could be Ahmedhodzic’s toughest since arriving at United yet but Heckingbottom said: “He’s a quality player who will keep getting better.”