Sheffield United's most valuable player in wages shock

Despite being Sheffield United’s most valuable asset and attracting interest from a host of clubs at home and abroad, Iliman Ndiaye remains one of the lowest paid members of Paul Heckingbottom’s squad.
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Although he is in line for a salary increase after helping them win promotion back to the Premier league, The Star understands that Ndiaye was among the least recompensed players at Bramall Lane last term. The issue, which Heckingbottom hopes will be rectified later this summer, stems from the fact Ndiaye’s most recent contract renewal came nearly two years ago; six months after he made his senior debut during a top-flight fixture against Leicester City.

With his present deal set to expire at the end of the forthcoming campaign, the United manager and his coaching staff hope the Senegal international can be persuaded to sign a new agreement later this summer which would not only reflect his status but also contain a release clause designed to protect their employers’ interests.

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Sources with knowledge of the plan Heckingbottom has devised, but which still requires actioning by United’s board of directors, report it would see Ndiaye’s remuneration package raised in order to compensate him for the loss of money he could gain by moving on a free transfer; when teams frequently ‘load’ a new acquisitions’s market value into their pay. The figure Ndiaye’s suitors, who include Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Marseille, would have to pay in order to gain permission to speak to him would also be set at a level which would not prove an obstacle to any genuine buyer.

Members of Heckingbottom’s inner circle believe, if the idea is implemented by United’s hierarchy, the former Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian chief’s relationship with the 23-year-old forward could convince him to put pen to paper.

After progressing through United’s development programme, where he worked with Heckingbottom before his appointment, Ndiaye was forced to wait 23 weeks before making his second senior outing following a contractual dispute between his advisors and senior figures at United - although not, crucially, members of the football department.

Sheffield United's Iliman Ndiaye leads Tottenham Hotspur a merry dance in last season's FA Cup: Paul Thomas / SportimageSheffield United's Iliman Ndiaye leads Tottenham Hotspur a merry dance in last season's FA Cup: Paul Thomas / Sportimage
Sheffield United's Iliman Ndiaye leads Tottenham Hotspur a merry dance in last season's FA Cup: Paul Thomas / Sportimage

Slavisa Jokanovic, Heckingbottom’s predecessor, eventually parachuted him back into the starting eleven after being impressed by his performances on the training ground soon after taking charge. But it is under Heckingbottom that Ndiaye, who represented his country at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, has truly flourished. His 15 goals helped United finish second in the Championship last season, with Ndiaye rejecting the opportunity of a switch to Goodison Park in January - when United were still operating under a transfer embargo.

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Everton remain interested in luring him to Merseyside. But it is thought that, if he does depart, Ndiaye would prefer a move elsewhere with the Stade Velodrome his number one choice after supporting Marseille as a child.

Heckingbottom acknowledges Ndiaye will leave at some point in the future. But as he attempts to establish United in the PL, he has insisted it would be a mistake to sell the attacker now; particularly after being handed a relatively meagre recruitment budget.