Sheffield United transfers: The men that decide who comes in and who doesn't

In a few weeks time Slavisa Jokanovic will get his feet under the table at his new job at Sheffield United.

By Chris Holt
Thursday, 10th June 2021, 9:47 am

Currently seeing out the final stages of his contract at Al-​Gharafa SC, Jokanovic will be expecting to come back to England and be greeted with a large file entitled ‘summer recruitment’ in his inbox.

United are about to come into a critical period. The transfer window opened this week and what happens over the course of the next couple of months may will determine whether or not their stay in the Championship, following last season’s relegation, will be brief.

As reported by The Star, the Blades will be leaning towards to a strategy that served them well during their last promotion season, cashing in on Jokanovic’s contacts and their own well-built relationships with the Premier League’s big guns to take on the country’s top young talent on loan.

I'll take him - Slavisa Jokanovic has been told he has the final say on recruitment at Sheffield United. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Central to that will be the need for a midfielder, with John Lundstram departing and Sander Berge expected to join him, albeit the latter’s impending exit amid interest from Arsenal will at least see United very well compensated.

Among those playing a big part in the process will be the man who was pivotal to Berge coming to Sheffield in the first place.

Jan Van Winckel

Jan Van Winckel’s eye for a player and his contacts in Belgium helped to bring the Norway international to Bramall Lane. Officially he’s technical director at United World – the global group of football club’s owned by Prince Abdullah – essentially he’s the football advisor to the Prince and a man who is highly-trusted by the Bramall Lane boss.

If you start to see players from across Europe being linked with moves to United – a market that was never really tapped into while Chris Wilder was in charge – then Van Winkel’s finger prints will be all over those that are genuine.

Paul Mitchell

Closer to home, though not necessarily tied to the UK, Paul Mitchell is sticking around and is understood to have already begun working with Jokanovic in providing the first portfolio of potential players to come through the gates this summer.

A great deal of that work had kicked off even while Wilder was still the manager – the very obvious need for players in certain positions hasn’t changed since the popular former boss’ departure in March.

Again, Head of Recruitment Mitchell is very highly thought of by the hierarchy at S2, having come in just after Wilder joined the club in 2016 and it is understood that his influence helped shift United from a club who were paying out too much money to bigger names dropping down a division or two, to one where hungry, talented players, perhaps with a point to prove, were pulled up.

A central defender and an attacking midfielder are currently on his radar.

Obviously, key to everything is the manager himself.

Slavisa Jokanovic

Jokanovic is well-versed in working at clubs where, ultimately, whether he particularly wants a player or not matters little. He’s been told that won’t be the case at United, where all the key men will have a say.

Chief Executive Stephen Bettis said in an interview this week: "Talking to Slavisa, at other clubs, he's not had much involvement in recruitment and we don't want that. We want him involved but we want our voices to be heard.

"I think Slav will find he'll have a lot more involvement here than he has had at times previously,” he told Sky Sports. “He's not pushing for that - I think he would have accepted it if we'd have wanted to bring in a director of football and been fine with it but we don't; we want to work with the people we've got. Paul [Mitchell] is key and we want Slav's input and knowledge.”

Stephen Bettis and Carl Shieber

Then, of course, there’s Bettis himself and contract negiotiator Carl Shieber – the money men; there to make sure the best deal for the Blades is secured.

It’s crucial that United maintain, at this stage, the prudent approach that has kept them on a firm financial footing, as so many other clubs have fallen by the wayside and found themselves in huge difficulties, desperately spending well beyond their means in trying to jump straight back up to the Premier League.

Parachute payments offer them a cushion to soften the blow but that needs to be spent wisely. There are plenty of clubs with sorrowful tales of failure to tell, both on the pitch and off it.