Sheffield United prepared to get tough with Genk over Sander Berge

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Sheffield United do not want to insert a loan back clause into their proposed agreement for Sander Berge, following reports Genk will only sanction the midfielder’s release if he remains at their disposal until the end of the campaign.

As The Star first reported earlier this season, United continued to monitor Berge’s progress despite failing in a bid to sign the 21-year-old over the summer; with negotiators acting on behalf of Chris Wilder’s side making a second approach last weekend.

Although the Belgians are resigned to losing Berge before his contract expires in 17 months time, they would prefer not to part company with their most prized asset until June.

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This, combined with the fact the player has reportedly confirmed he will not extend his present deal, could persuade Genk to do business now providing so long as Berge initially stays at the club.

But United are not minded to grant that request, and are actively monitoring two other potential targets.

Wilder would prefer to bolster the options at his disposal immediately, after guiding his team to eighth in the table ahead of Saturday’s visit to Crystal Palace.

With Berge’s value only set to rise, despite his contractual situation at the Luminus Arena, completing the transfer now could make greater financial sense for United, who lack the same muscle as the overwhelming majority of their top-flight rivals.

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Independent experts value Berge, a senior Norway international, at around £20m. But his performances in the Champions League, where he was a rare success story for Hannes Wolf’s squad in an otherwise forgettable group campaign, have convinced Genk to try and demand around £7m more.

Chris Wilder has led Sheffield United to eighth in the Premier League table: Simon Bellis/SportimageChris Wilder has led Sheffield United to eighth in the Premier League table: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Chris Wilder has led Sheffield United to eighth in the Premier League table: Simon Bellis/Sportimage | JPIMedia

Their sporting director, Dimitri De Conde, has previously chosen to fan the flames of speculation surrounding Berge’s future by declaring Liverpool and Napoli have also expressed an interest in recruiting the youngster.

But with offers from Anfield, the San Paolo or elsewhere yet to materialise, United could use this as a lever to weaken Genk’s position. Crucially, they have also identified Olympiacos’ Mady Camara and Florian Grillitsch of Hoffenheim as alternatives should Genk drag their feet.

Berge has scored six times in 100 appearances since leaving Valerenga in 2017.