Sheffield United: Sander Berge waits for Champions League offer to arrive from Italy
The battle for Sander Berge could be set for a new twist after Atalanta became the latest Italian club to express an interest in the Sheffield United midfielder, with officials at the Stadio de Bergamo confident that qualifying for the Champions League makes them a more desirable destination than Napoli or Lazio.
After initially appearing set to join Arsenal until Mikel Arteta’s side refused to meet United’s £35m valuation, Berge was then the subject of an approach from Luciano Spalletti’s side about a move to Campania.
Although that was relayed via an intermediary rather than through official channels, Napoli’s decision to break cover prompted their rivals from Rome to also begin monitoring Berge’s situation in South Yorkshire.
But behind the scenes, Atalanta are also thought to have been making overtures to the Norway international’s representatives; pointing out that, unlike their Serie A counterparts, they will be competing in Europe’s premier club competition next term.
And if his president Antonio Percassi decides to sanction a bid, head coach Gian Piero Gasperini believes that could catapult them to the front of the queue of teams interested in acquiring Berge following United’s relegation from the Premier League.
Although new manager Slavisa Jokanovic has spoken publicly about trying to convince Berge to stay, the 23-year-old has privately told United he is minded to leave rather than play second tier football. Indeed at the beginning of last season, even before his team mates found themselves cut adrift at the bottom of the table, Berge told journalists during a supposedly routine interview that he wanted to experience European competition again having represented Genk in both the CL and Europa League before joining United.
Having seen him struggle for consistency since arriving in England, United’s hierarchy are also minded to cash-in with one of owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud advisors believing he could now command £13m more than the £22m they paid the Belgians 18 months ago.
However like Arsenal, Napoli, Lazio and Atalanta all believe that is a gross exaggeration. Indeed despite emerging as one of their country’s most exciting sides in recent seasons, the latter have never spent more than £16m on a player.