Sheffield United: This could be Henry Mauriss' first big test at Bramall Lane if takeover is approved

The first test Sheffield United’s owner could face this summer, whether that be Henry Mauriss or HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, is fending-off interest in some of the club’s leading names.

Friday, 22nd April 2022, 1:43 pm

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One of those, centre-half John Egan, has already attracted attention from teams on both sides of the border. The same goes for another; the Republic of Ireland international’s fellow defender George Baldock.

Embroiled in a fierce battle to qualify for the play-offs, United’s pursuit of promotion is taking place against a backdrop of contractual negotiations behind the scenes. Chris Basham, who before Billy Sharp accepted an extension made it clear he would appreciate some direction from Bramall Lane’s hierarchy about when his own deal will be finalised, is among those approaching the end of their present agreements.

But if Paul Heckingbottom fails to deliver a promotion during his first season in charge, United could find themselves exposed to offers from top-flight outfits in England and Scotland - where Celtic have previously made their admiration for Baldock known.

Like his colleague, Egan is tied to Heckingbottom’s squad for another two years. But that is unlikely to dissuade West Ham from trying to lure him to east London should David Moyes include his name on their final list of close season targets. The Star understands that officials at Parkhead also monitored Egan before the start of the Scottish Premiership campaign.

Budget restraints eventually saw them focus on Baldock instead. However, after failing to prise him away from South Yorkshire, as Ange Postecoglou focused on strengthening other areas of his squad, the Glaswegian giants might be tempted to make an approach should they qualify for next term’s Champions League. Reaching the tournament proper is worth an estimated £12m, with a further £7m awarded to those who progress beyond the group stage.

The cost of retaining players such as Egan could be a factor behind Prince Abdullah’s apparent willingness to sell United, with American media tycoon Mauriss among those interested in taking control. Mike Ashley, previously of Newcastle, has also been linked as Heckingbottom’s squad, sixth in the table with three matches remaining, prepare for tomorrow’s meeting with Cardiff City.

Sheffield United defender John Egan is much admired in English and Scottish football: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Ashley has made no secret of his desire to re-enter the sporting sector after selling Newcastle to a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Mauriss was also keen on acquiring Ashley’s former asset, and his proposal for United is now said to be undergoing scrutiny by the English Football League.

Should Prince Abdullah and either Mauriss or Ashley - who explored the prospect of purchasing Derby County whilst simultaneously investigating the feasibility of investing in cricket - enter into a binding arrangement, ensuring United’s most valuable players are protected will feature towards the top of their agenda.

Recently named as one of the most effective central defenders in the division by academics at Europe’s leading footballing think tank, Egan is one of those. And, as Prince Abdullah can testify after building a portfolio of interests across the globe, the success of any sporting project ultimately depends upon results.

H.R.H Prince Abdullah bin Mosa'ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud could be poised to sell Sheffield United: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
George Baldock in action for Sheffield United, who face Cardiff City this weekend: Simon Bellis / Sportimage