Sheffield United: Payment structure complicates Leeds United target's situation at Bramall Lane

Sander Berge’s future at Sheffield United is being complicated by the fact they are still thought to be paying off the £22m fee he commanded after leaving Genk two years ago.

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The Norwegian international, who is reportedly a potential target for Leeds, became the most expensive player in United’s history following his move to South Yorkshire midway through the 2019/20 Premier League season - a title now held by Rhian Brewster, previously of Liverpool.

Having handed Berge a contract lasting until the end of the 2023/24 campaign, it is standard practice for clubs to settle their debts in instalments across the course of the purchase agreement.

Sheffield United's Sander Berge is expected to be a wanted man this summer: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Sources with knowledge of the deal United negotiated with their Belgian counterparts last night told The Star they believe that is the arrangement officials at Bramall Lane entered into when they convinced the midfielder to join them rather than accept an offer from Italian giants Napoli.

If so, that means United will still be making payments to Berge’s former employers; a situation which possibly explains why, despite being the subject of a £35m release clause, they are understood to be ready to accept offers which provide them with what has been described as a “significant” return on their investment.

Stale Solbakken, the Norway manager: Sascha Steinbach /Pool via Getty Images

Paul Heckingbottom, the United manager, has made no secret of the fact he wants Berge to stay for at least another 12 months despite last term’s defeat in the Championship play-off semi-finals.

But senior figures at United suspect Berge’s representatives are actively trying to engineer his departure. Those feelings intensified when Stale Solbakken, Heckingbottom’s Norwegian counterpart, used a media conference ahead of a recent Nations League game to claim that Berge is “too good” to be competing in the second tier. Having initially kept his own counsel, Heckingbottom later responded by telling journalists that “some people who really shouldn’t be” were commenting on Berge’s situation.

Despite being linked with a flurry of names and selling Oliver Burke to Werder Bremen, United are still yet to make a breakthrough in the summer transfer market. Malmo defender Anel Ahmedhodzic features among Heckingbottom’s targets, while talks remain on-going with goalkeeper Adam Davies.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Simon Bellis / Sportimage