Sheffield United: Board are told it is vital 'irreplaceable' Sander Berge stays
and live on Freeview channel 276
Club Brugge are determined to take Berge back to Belgium, where he previously represented Genk, having made an unsuccessful bid of around £12.5m for the 24-year-old earlier this month.
That fell more than £20m short of the release clause written into the midfielder’s contract, although it is understood United’s board are prepared to consider any offer which either covers or provides them with a return on their initial investment.
Speaking after watching Berge score the opening goal during United’s 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough, Heckingbottom acknowledged he will be powerless to intervene if Carl Hoefkens’ side match owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s valuation.
But he told The Star: “We’ve had interest and bids for players that we’ve knocked back. Everyone knows that’s been the case.
“That’s the message that has been sent out and I’m grateful for that. But if Sander’s form continues, then someone is going to come up with the number that I don’t want them to pay. He knows my thoughts on the matter, though.”
Berge’s strike was his second in four outings for United so far this term, and seventh since being deployed in a more advanced role. Signed for £22m by Heckingbottom’s predecessor Chris Wilder, who is now in charge of Middlesbrough, Berge has previously been linked with Leeds, Napoli and Newcastle.
Asked if the decision to loan James McAtee from Manchester City provided United with insurance against Berge’s departure, Heckingbottom replied: “You aren’t going to replace Sander, and that’s half my argument. If you lose a £30m then it’s difficult to replace him, (unless you spend that money again).
“I know football is a business and that it isn’t my money. But Sander knows my opinion on it, because my job is to protect the team. Someone has to take that stance and I make that argument during every discussion that we have, which take place all the time.”
After Berge had fired United into an early lead, Middlesbrough struck back through Chuba Akpom before the former Arsenal centre-forward pounced again; this time to cancel-out Ryan Giles’ own goal.
“I enjoyed our intent and our aggression,” Heckingbottom said, before Wilder insisted the crowd had just witnessed “the best game in the Championship” since competitive action resumed. “I really liked that side of things. My only frustration was that we didn’t create enough when we got into really good areas, that little attention to detail. But that will come, I know it, we’ll get better at that.”
“What I saw out there,” Heckingbottom added, “Was two really good teams who both wanted to have a go. We wanted to try and set the agenda, to get on the front foot, even though we were playing away from home.
“Like I say, it was just that final bit of quality. But overall, I was really pleased with what I saw out there. I thought we should have won and Chris will probably feel the same way.”