Sheffield United stars attract transfer interest from rival clubs after delay
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Joint-leading goalscorer Oli McBurnie, Jack Robinson, John Fleck and Ben Osborn were among those who were informed Paul Heckingbottom wants to keep them after entering the closing stages of their agreements at Bramall Lane.
Although all are content to remain in South Yorkshire next term, sources with knowledge of the negotiation process last night reported that the documentation they must sign to conclude the discussions has yet to be presented. And that has persuaded scouts and coaching staff elsewhere to begin preparing approaches should the delay continue.
Speaking as the dust began to settle on United’s promotion back to the Premier League, Heckingbottom confirmed he wanted to keep the squad which finished second in last season’s Championship table intact, although it was later revealed that captain Billy Sharp and defender Enda Stevens would be leaving when they become free agents later this summer. Influential midfielder Oliver Norwood was automatically handed an extension after triggering an appearance based clause during United’s march back into the top-flight.
McBurnie excelled after rediscovering his form in front of goal under Heckingbottom, and used a series of interviews designed to coincide with the civic reception arranged to mark United’s achievement to acknowledge he was ‘going nowhere’.
However, unlike Norwood, not all of those also approaching the end of their contracts were entitled to fresh terms providing they took part in a predetermined number of games. Although it has not been officially confirmed, Robinson, Fleck and Norwood are believed to fall within this category.
Heckingbottom would prefer the situation to be resolved quickly, as he prepares to try and use the transfer market to build a team equipped to compete at the highest level. Although he has identified a number of targets, handing a wish list to United’s hierarchy during a recent meeting in Geneva, the names on it could change if existing members of his squad are lured elsewhere.
Fleck, for example, is known to have attracted interest from his native Scotland before United’s retained and released list was published. The 31-year-old, who has won three promotions with them since arriving from Coventry City, progressed through Rangers’ youth system before heading to England.
In addition, Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge are about to enter the final 12 months of their present arrangements, together with John Egan and George Baldock. The duo were on duty for the Republic of Ireland and Greece respectively last night when the two countries met in a Euro 2024 qualifier. Berge is poised to represent Norway against Scotland this evening, before his United team mate Anel Ahmedhodzic and his Bosnia and Herzegovina colleagues face Portugal in Lisbon.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva are among those expected to feature for the hosts. McBurnie was surprisingly ommitted from the Scot’s plans for the trip to Oslo.