Sheffield United have received a major boost in their pursuit of Ryan Leonard after the Southend captain admitted he wants to leave Roots Hall.
Leonard, aged 25, told his agent he is keen to play Championship football next season as Chris Wilder’s side were preparing to fly home from Spain over the weekend.
As The Star revealed on Friday, officials at Bramall Lane made an improved offer for the midfielder after seeing an earlier bid rejected by Southend owner Ron Martin. United, who are also monitoring Northern Ireland international Ben Reeves, want Leonard to bolster their options ahead of next month’s Championship opener against Brentford on August 5.
Millwall are also interested in signing Southend’s reigning player of the year who, despite pleas from manager Phil Brown, has refused to extend his contract.
United, who beat Malaga FC in Coin three days ago, continue their preparations for the new season with a visit to Chesterfield tomorrow evening before facing Rotherham, at New York Stadium, 72 hours later.
Reeves is thought to have first appeared on United’s radar in January although given his contract situation in Buckinghamshire - he is still training with Robbie Neilson’s side despite recently becoming a free agent - they decided against making an official approach.
Bolton Wanderers, who finished runners-up behind Wilder’s team in League One last term, and Charlton Athletic are also keeping a close eye on Reeves’ situation with Karl Robinson, the Londoners’ manager, recently choosing to publicly reveal his admiration for the 25-year-old.
Leonard failed to appear on the team sheet when Southend faced Braintree Town in a friendly at the weekend.
Meanwhile, a United XI beat Scarborough Athletic 4-1 at the Flamingo Land Stadium on Saturday as the non-league club officially opened their new ground.