Sheffield United: Heckingbottom to seek transfer reassurance after Sander Berge drama
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Berge was the subject of intense interest from Carl Hoefkens’ side during the closing stages of the window, with sources claiming they made at least two improved offers for the midfielder ahead of the 11pm cut off point.
Although Belgian clubs have until next week to finalise their squads, Brugge had hoped to register the 24-year-old in time for him to feature in their Champions League game against Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday.
Although United maintained a line of communication with their counterparts at the Jan Breydel Stadium, which suggests they were prepared to accept less than the £35m release clause contained within Berge’s contract, Hoefkens’ employers proved unable to broker a compromise.
Heckingbottom, whose team are preparing for Sunday’s visit to Hull City on top of the Championship table, described the former Genk player as “irreplaceable” when news of Brugge’s efforts to sign him first emerged.
Berge is believed to be the only member of United’s first team not to have seen his salary cut following their defeat in May’s play-off semi-finals. After making his feelings on the situation known, insisting that financial decisions must be weighed against “footballing” consequences, Heckingbottom is now expected to seek reassurances that no further offers for Berge will be entertained until the end of the campaign.
Members of United’s hierarchy conceded Berge’s representatives had “been busy” attempting to secure a move for their client, who is also believed to have been the focus of at least one ‘loan to buy’ approach from a Premier League outfit yesterday.
“If Sander is still here, with us, then we’ll be better for it,” admitted Heckingbottom, who explored the possibility of drafting in Montreal’s Ismael Kone. “I’m obviously hoping he is.”
As expected, United allowed Will Osula to depart on a temporary basis after Heckingbottom decided that regular first team football would best serve the youngster’s development. The Danish striker is highly rated by coaching staff in South Yorkshire, but could spend the remainder of the campaign at Derby County working alongside former United marksman David McGoldrick.
Osula, aged 19, passed his medical at Pride Park after also attracting interest from Ipswich Town, Lincoln City and Burton Albion. After impressing United with the improvements he made to Daniel Jebbison’s game during his spell on loan there last season, Albion’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had hoped to win the race for Osula’s services. But County, who recruited McGoldrick following his release by United earlier this summer, won the race for the teenager’s services after providing United with a detailed career development programme aimed at equipping him with the skills to eventually challenge for a place in Heckingbottom’s starting eleven.
County also agreed to insert a clause into the deal which could see Osula return to Bramall Lane in January, if United are short of attacking options.
Osula made his debut for United in March, during a draw with Blackpool at Bloomfield Road.