Sheffield United: Why Bramall Lane is the ideal place for this player to thrive

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Sheffield United’s tactical strategy made them the perfect place for Anel Ahmedhodzic to realise his potential, Paul Heckingbottom has insisted, after insisting he is not surprised by the centre-half’s impact since returning to England.
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Ahmedhodzic enters Saturday’s game at Cardiff City, United’s final outing before the World Cup break, having cemented his status as one of the club’s most influential players following a series of impressive displays this term.

A £3m signing during the close season, Ahmedhodzic rose to prominence with Malmo after beginning his professional career with Nottingham Forest. But it was the defender’s performances for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country he chose to represent at international level after being capped by Sweden, which persuaded United’s recruitment department to present Heckingbottom with a dossier on his talents which, after an approach was first made 10 months ago, was eventually actioned upon last summer.

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“You could tell he was a good player, obviously,” said Heckingbottom, whose side are third in the table after losing to Rotherham on Tuesday night. “What really interested us, though, was looking at him playing for Bosnia who often go with a three and sometimes play a similar way to us. That’s when we knew he’d be really well suited. Not only for us but also, that we’d be really well suited for him. That’s something we stressed when we first spoke and, although it wasn’t possible to do a deal then, it helped in the long run.”

United were forced to delay their move for Ahmedhodzic until the end of the previous campaign, after he moved to Bordeaux on loan. The French outfit had shoehorned an option to purchase agreement into the deal before being unable to trigger it because of the financial crisis which eventually saw them relegated from Ligue 1.

With Blackburn Rovers and a number of top-flight sides both at home and abroad also courting Ahmedhodzic, Heckingbottom said: “I think the fact that our interest was long-standing, that we’d made contact back then and then continued to let out interest be known through the proper channels, it made a big difference. That made an impression, I’m sure, on Anel and the people around him.”