Sheffield United: Contract situation threatens to become an issue - yet again - after Rangers tug-of-war

Sheffield United are in danger of failing to learn one of their lessons of their relegation from the Premier League, when an unresolved contractual issue became a distraction behind the scenes.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 4:48 pm

With the January transfer window fast approaching, when those in the final stages of their agreements will be able to hold talks with non-English clubs, a huge swathe of Slavisa Jokanovic’s squad remains scheduled to leave Bramall Lane at the end of the season.

Although the situation provides an opportunity for United to undertake a comprehensive reprofiling exercise next summer, it also threatens to create a similar problem to the one they were left facing when John Lundstram entered the closing stages of his deal last term.

Despite the best efforts of the club to recoup some of their investment in the midfielder by moving him on, the promise of a move to Scottish Premiership champions Rangers persuaded him to see out the remaining five months of his deal before heading to Ibrox for nothing. The stand-off had a detrimental effect upon the player’s relationship with Jokanovic’s predecessor Chris Wilder, who wanted to raise money to fund a bid for either Reading’s John Swift or Jesse Lingard after discussing a potential loan with the Manchester United midfielder long before West Ham hijacked the switch.

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Swift, who remained at the Madejski Stadium, has scored eight goals in 17 appearances since August.

Having revealed his desire to sign two wingers and a holding midfielder when the market reopens, Jokanovic clearly feels United require a refresh after entering the international break 18th in the Championship table.

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While some of those set to depart will be surplus to requirements, others, including midfielder Ben Osborn, are likely to form part of the Serb’s plans. But sources within the game last night reported United have yet to seriously begin addressing the issue of who stays or goes.

John Lundstram (right) joined Rangers from Sheffield United on a free when his deal weas allowed to expire: James Wilson/Sportimage

Like Osborn, Lys Mousset, Billy Sharp, David McGoldrick, Chris Basham and Adlene Guedioura all face uncertain futures in South Yorkshire. Jack Robinson and Luke Freeman are also scheduled to leave on frees while loanees Morgan Gibbs-White, Ben Davies, Robin Olsen and Conor Hourihane will return to their parent clubs at the end of the campaign unless they are purchased permanently.

With Jokanovic expected to tell United’s board of directors he wants to keep some of those whose contracts are about the expire, one high-profile agent explained why they would be taking a risk by not opening discussions with the names on his prospective ‘retained’ list now.

Billy Sharp (centre) and Chris Basham (right) are both out of contract at Sheffield United at the end of the season: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“The way the business works now, if someone goes on a free then very often their value will get factored into things like wages or signing on fees,” he told The Star. “That’s why, once it reaches this stage, it can be difficult to keep people - because they know it might make financial sense to go and, when all is said and done, they have careers to consider.”

Mousset was linked with a switch to Russia before Jokanovic’s appointment in May. But the striker, a £10m purchase from AFC Bournemouth, has since shown signs of rediscovering his form and fitness - scoring three goals in six outings after overcoming a hamstring injury.

Basham, who has started United’s last two games, recently confirmed his situation could be decided after Christmas.

Ben Osborn (left) has entered the closing stages of his contract at Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage