Sheffield United: Iliman Ndiaye prepares to write the World Cup chapter of his amazing story

Iliman Ndiaye’s presence in the Senegal squad which begins its World Cup campaign with a game against Holland tomorrow, less than two years after making his debut for Sheffield United, represents the latest chapter in what Paul Heckingbottom describes as a “great story”.
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With Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane ruled-out of the tournament due to injury, Ndiaye could have a major role to play in the African champions’ team as head coach Aliou Cisse attempts to cope without one of the country’s superstars.

Having arrived at Bramall Lane from non-league Boreham Wood, Ndiaye’s remarkable rise through the game has captured the imagination of both colleagues and supporters alike at Bramall Lane, where he has scored nine times for United so far this term. But if he impresses in Qatar - and Heckingbottom is convinced he can - then Ndiaye’s name could soon be on the lips of people across the globe.

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“From a personal point of view, I’d love to see him out there and doing what we know he can do,” the United manager said. “Everyone knows who he is and what he’s doing. Iliman, it will be a great story and it hasn’t finished being written yet either.”

Despite the loss of Mane, Cisse is not short of experienced attacking options, meaning Ndiaye’s first appearance in the Middle East could come off the bench. Watford’s Ismaila Sarr and Boulaye Dia, who has caught the eye at Salernitana, are both at the former Paris St Germain, Portsmouth and Birmingham City defender’s disposal.

Heckingbottom, who handed Ndiaye his first professional outing during a spell in caretaker charge before being handed the job on a permanent basis 12 months ago, has also seen United’s Adam Davies called-up by Wales.

“Davo is delighted, pleased and over the moon to be there,” Heckingbottom said. “It will be incredible for these lads to have the chance to go to a World Cup and potentially play in it too. We have to be proud of them as a club and we are. They deserve it. They’ll come back so much better for the experience because they’ll learn so much.”