Sheffield United: Arsenal, Napoli and Aston Villa target set to report back for pre-season training
Sander Berge looks set to report back for pre-season training with Sheffield United next week, as the Championship club continues to frustrate his suitors by refusing to lower their asking price for the Norway international.
Despite attracting interest from both Arsenal and Napoli, Berge has yet to be the subject of an official bid after being valued at £35m by Bramall Lane’s hierarchy.
Although he is still expected to depart this summer following United’s relegation from the Premier League, the 23-year-old is preparing to rejoin his team mates at the Steelphalt Academy on Monday when preparations for the new campaign will begin in earnest.
Slavisa Jokanovic who was named as United’s new manager last month, will start work on July 1; 24 hours after his contract with Qatari outfit Al-Gharafa expires.
Having expressed his desire to play European football again after representing Genk in both the Europa League and the Champions League before moving to England, Berge effectively told United he wanted to leave when they surrendered their top-flight status.
Even before their demotion was confirmed, United had already started to test the market with Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur being invited to make offers.
Although Mikel Arteta’s employers signalled they were willing to do so, all subsequent communication between United and the Emirates Stadium has been through ‘back channels’.
Like Napoli, Arsenal value Berge at a little over half of what his parent club are demanding. While United could be willing to compromise over the structure of any future payment plan, they have so far rejected all attempts to negotiate a fee.
That has persuaded the Italians and their counterparts in north London to bunker down in the belief that Berge’s representatives will soon begin agitating on behalf of their client. If this happens, it could weaken United’s position.
However, neither Berge nor his agent have any intention of causing disruption behind the scenes or souring relations with United - believing instead that the situation will resolve itself in due course.
Aston Villa are also thought to be monitoring Berge’s situation, as their manager Dean Smith and his sporting director Johan Lange decide whether or not to make an approach.