Sheffield United face Chuba Akpom transfer competition as Middlesbrough “price” revealed

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Middlesbrough have reportedly placed a £15m valuation on the head of their star striker Chuba Akpom, after news that Lens have joined Sheffield United in the race for his services this summer.

United placed Akpom’s name on a list of potential transfer targets to replace Iliman Ndiaye after his move to Marseille earlier this month. Akpom scored 28 goals in the Championship last season to help Boro into the play-offs but is now in the final year of his Riverside contract, with conversations ongoing about an extension.

Akpom has not signed fresh terms, however, which will give United some encouragement as they look for fresh blood before the end of the summer transfer window. They will be less keen to turn the race for Akpom into an auction, however, with Lens looking for a replacement for Loïs Openda after his big-money summer move to Red Bull Leipzig.

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United would look to exploit Akpom’s contract situation to secure him for a cut-priced fee, after being forced to do business with Ndiaye and Sander Berge or risk losing the pair for free next summer. But Boro chairman Steve Gibson is a shrewd negotiator, with reports today suggesting that he will demand almost double the £8m fee reported for Akpom - and also get a replacement signed before he is tempted to do business.

That could be a further blow to Heckingbottom’s hopes of doing business quickly ahead of this weekend’s Premier League start, at home to Crystal Palace. With four of United’s six opening league games at Bramall Lane, Heckingbottom hoped to start the season with the majority of his squad in place - ahead of September 1’s transfer deadline - but has so far only welcomed four players, in Anis Slimane, Yasser Larouci, Benie Traore and Auston Trusty.

Vinicius Souza is close to being unveiled, which United hope will help soften the blow of Berge’s imminent move to Premier League rivals Burnley.

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