Revealed: The state of play at Sheffield United regarding new contracts for Iliman Ndiaye and other members of their next generation

Contract talks with Iliman Ndiaye and a number of Sheffield United’s other young players are continuing, caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom has confirmed, as the club looks to “protect” some of its most coveted assets from hostile predators.

Saturday, 15th May 2021, 6:00 am

As The Star first reported two months ago, Ndiaye’s representative has been negotiating with Bramall Lane’s hierarchy about a new deal for his client after watching him make his first team debut during Heckingbottom’s first match in charge.

Although the French midfielder has not featured since March’s defeat by Leicester City, prompting speculation United are taking a tougher than expected approach towards those discussions, Heckingbottom insisted the fact Ndiaye and other members of the under-18 and under-23 teams currently locked in discussions are in no imminent danger of being lured away means there is nothing to worry about.

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Iliman Ndiaye of Sheffield Utd celebrates his goal during the Professional Development League match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture date: 2nd November 2020. Picture credit should read: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“There are seven or eight players in that position, with the under-23’s,” Heckingbottom said, maintaining there is no cause for alarm. “They are under contract for next season.

“There’s three or four who have been done and three or four to be done. It’s about protecting the club’s future.”

With their relegation from the Premier League being confirmed last month, the emergence of an exciting new generation of talent has been a rare success story at United this term.

With Oli Burke joining Jack O’Connell, Billy Sharp and Oli McBurnie in being ruled out for the season and Sander Berge and Ethan Ampadu both doubts for tomorrow’s visit to Everton, Heckingbottom, who coached United’s development squad before replacing Wilder, could be set to include more of its members in his plans for the visit to Goodison Park. They include striker Daniel Jebbison, who made his first team appearance during last weekend’s defeat by Crystal Palace.

Despite all being tied to existing contracts, United are aware that post-Brexit work permit legislation means established top-flight clubs could attempt to lure the likes of Ndiaye and others away during the forthcoming transfer window unless fresh agreements are reached.

“It’s a really important time for the club,” he continued. “Not all will be regulars here, we know that. Others will be squad players and save us money. Others will get a move and we can make money. We have to be good in the contracts we get them to sign, in terms of protecting us and rewarding them.

“Some are already on contracts, professional ones, and others are looking at first ones. It’s an exciting time for them and their families.”

Zak Brunt, Antwoine Hackford, Frankie Maguire and Kyron Gordon have all been involved with United’s first team this term as first Wilder and then Heckingbottom looked to progress them through the system.

“It started a while back, Chris wanted to change the outlook of the academy,” said Heckingbottom, who is set to return to his previous role when a permanent appointment is made. “Jack (Lester) came in (as director) and Chris asked me to come in and do this role. The groundwork has been done, you all know Del Geary and the great work he does with the under-18’s. The players know the tough love is for their benefit.”