Sheffield United offered to improve Harry Maguire’s terms and conditions before being informed by the player’s representative that his client was postponing negotiations about a new contract at Bramall Lane, writes James Shield.
Talks aimed at reaching agreement with Maguire stalled last month amid interest from Wolverhampton Wanderers who saw two bids, worth a reported £1m and £1.5m, rejected by the League One club’s hierarchy before Hull City also entered the race for the 21-year-old centre-half.
Although the exact details of United’s proposal remain a closely guarded secret, they are likely to include a significant pay increase and other performance related incentives according to senior figures within the game.
Nigel Clough recently handed Maguire an olive branch by revealing United are prepared to resume those discussions should they receive the green light.
However, the United manager also warned his employers will not be bullied into accepting an approach which fails to reflect the market value for a defender who has made 166 appearances since progressing through the ranks four seasons ago.
With both City and Wolves so far demonstrating no inclination to increase their valuations of Maguire, his future could be decided when Clough’s squad return to training on July 3.
The former England international, who has bolstered United’s options at centre-half by recruiting Andy Butler from Walsall, insists the 30-year-old’s arrival should not be interpreted as a sign they are paving the way for Maguire’s departure.
“The problem is, whenever we look at someone in that position,” Clough said. “People assume it’s a replacement for Harry when that isn’t the case because we’ve always maintained we needed more than two.”
However, addressing the region’s media after Butler’s arrival was confirmed, he did acknowledge that coaching staff would analyse Maguire’s demeanour closely before deciding whether he should continue anchoring a rearguard which has kept 21 clean sheets in its last 57 outings.
City, who are also monitoring Doncaster Rovers’ James Husband, will continue to track events at United but, according to sources in East Yorkshire, will not be rushed into meeting United’s asking price despite seeing another target, Joleon Lescott, join West Bromwich Albion yesterday.
Wolves, meanwhile, believe Maguire could be tempted by the greater first team opportunities likely to be on offer at Molineux if he does sever his ties with United.