Sheffield United have entered a crucial period off the pitch as well as on it
Sheffield United could be forced to negotiate new contracts with a huge swathe of players over the next 12 months if they want to keep the core of Slavisa Jokanovic’s squad intact.
Seventeen permanent members of Bramall Lane’s squad are scheduled to become free agents either this summer or next, including the Republic of Ireland’s Enda Stevens, his former international team mate David McGoldrick, Scotland’s John Fleck and captain Billy Sharp.
Although some of their agreements are thought to contain options which could tie them to United for another season, the sheer volume of deals which could need addressing means officials must start confronting the situation now or risk seeing key members of Jokanovic’s starting eleven leave either for nothing or a fraction of their true worth.
United’s hierarchy began that process last month, when Iliman Ndiaye committed his future to the club until 2024 having entered the closing stages of his previous contract. The Frenchman, aged 21, impressed on his senior debut earlier this year during a Premier League fixture against Leicester City.
However, with Joanovic being appointed soon after United were relegated back to the Championship, the midfielder was forced to wait until last month’s 6-2 victory over Peterborough before making another league appearance. Having scored twice during that fixture, Ndiaye has made another five appearances since, after impressing the new manager and his coaching staff.
Inevitably, some of those approaching the end of their deals are likely to become surplus to requirements as Jokanovic begins reshaping the options at his disposal. But not all.
Goalkeepers Michael Verrips and Wes Foderingham, Oliver Burke, George Baldock, Oliver Norwood and Jack O’Connell, who has not featured since last September due to injury, are also among those who have entered the closing stages of their present deals. Likewise Luke Freeman, Jack Robinson and Lys Mousset, who returned to fitness ahead of Saturday’s visit to AFC Bournemouth.
Loanees Ben Davies, Morgan Gibbs-White, Conor Hourihane and Robin Olsen, who also travelled to the Vitality Stadium, are on season long terms. Adlene Guedioura, who worked with Jokanovic at both Watford and Al-Gharafa before joining him at United last month, also put pen to paper on a 12 month contract after arriving on a free transfer.