Sheffield United Digest: Jokanovic's recruitment meetings, Sander Berge's value explained amid Arsenal interest, Stoke City frustrated

Slavisa Jokanovic, the new Sheffield United manager, has conducted meetings with Bramall Lane’s hierarchy to identify a number of players he is interested in bringing to Bramall Lane as he prepares to officially start work on July 1.

Saturday, 19th June 2021, 7:24 am

Although he is not planning to make any immediate changes to their squad, preferring to analyse the options he is set to inherit in the flesh before entering the transfer market, Jokanovic is believed to have identified several players he would be interested in bringing to South Yorkshire during a series of private discussions with members of United’s hierarchy.

Paul Mitchell, their chief talent spotter, owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Jan van Winckel, United’s de facto director of football, are also thought to have been involved.

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Blades hire transfer go-between

Sheffield United are understood to have hired a go-between to help facilitate their transfer dealings this summer, with the individual concerned thought to have been granted the authority to identify potential deals with rival clubs.

Although the identity of the person instructed remains unknown, a number of independent but well placed sources within the game have told The Star they are aware of a middleman understood to hail from the Middle East, who has been granted permission to act on United’s behalf with regards to recruitment.

Rather than negotiating the finer details of purchases and sales - something which still falls within the remit of Carl Shieber, United’s head of football administration - the intermediary is said to be exploring either how much other teams are willing to pay for those new manager Slavisa Jokanovic might choose to offload or demand for players he wants to sign.

Slavisa Jokanovic takes charge of Sheffield United next month: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Slavisa Jokanovic takes charge of Sheffield United next month: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Why Blades value Berge at £35m

Sheffield United believe the £35m asking price they claim to have slapped on Sander Berge reflects the midfielder’s true worth, claiming the price they acquired him for undervalued his talent.

Only 17 months after signing Berge for £22m, transfer negotiators acting on United’s behalf have told Arsenal it will cost them £13m more to take the Norway international to the Emirates Stadium after Mikel Arteta expressed an interest.

Although The Star understands official talks between the two clubs about Berge are yet to take place, it has been established through a back-channel line of communication that the Londoners believe United are demanding too much for a player who has less than 30 Premier League appearances on his CV and only recently recovered from a serious hamstring injury.

However, with Berge confirming his fitness towards the end of a season which saw them relegated from the Premier League, an intermediary acting on United’s behalf has argued the commitment they are demanding before granting Berge permission to explore a move to north London reflects how much he would have cost after leaving Genk had his contract there not been approaching its expiry date.

State of play with Berge as Napoli join race

Napoli could resurrect their interest in Sander Berge this summer after media reports in Italy suggested that the Blues are monitoring the Sheffield United midfielder.

Berge is widely expected to leave Bramall Lane this summer after the Blades’ relegation to the Championship, and United’s hierarchy are so far refusing to budge on their £35m valuation of a player they signed from Genk for £22m.

That fee was partly reduced because Berge told Genk he would not renew his contract, and United now believe the player to be worth almost double as he has acclimatised to English football.

The man behind Napoli’s interest in Berge

Cristiano Giuntoli, Napoli’s long-serving sporting director, is the man responsible for resurrecting their interest in Sander Berge as Sheffield United lay the groundwork for the Norway international’s departure.

Berge appeared destined for the San Paolo 17 months ago, before United took advantage of the Italian’s procrastination to strike a deal with Genk for the 23-year-old.

Although the lure of Premier League football also influenced Berge’s decision, combined with the fact he knew he would be a regular starter at Bramall Lane, United’s relegation from the top-flight last term means he is now seeking a move away from South Yorkshire.

According to one leading newspaper in Italy, that has persuaded Napoli to try their luck again - although like Arsenal, who are also keen on Berge, they are unwilling to meet United’s valuation.

Slav’s decision frustrates Championship rivals

Slavisa Jokanovic’s decision to wait until he has personally evaluated Sheffield United’s senior squad before making any major forays into the transfer market threatens to frustrate Stoke City’s attempts to offload Joe Allen.

The Wales international will privately be offered to United, as officials at the bet365 Stadium attempt to reorganise their finances.

Although midfield is a priority position for United this summer, with Sander Berge expected to follow John Lundstram through the exit door following their relegation from the Premier League, Jokanovic has told Bramall Lane’s hierarchy he would prefer to study the players he will inherit next month in the flesh before completing his most important business.

Although City appreciate Allen can not be moved on until he returns from the European Championships, they are seeking to ascertain which of the clubs identified as possible destinations for the 31-year-old are interested in exploring a deal.

How Blades’ season ticket prices compare to league rivals

We crunched the numbers to compare United’s 2021/22 adult season ticket prices against the rest of the second-tier clubs who have made the data publicly available at the time of writing.

Some, it must be said, are discounted ‘early bird’ prices and may change into the summer. But here, from high to low, is how the Blades compare…