Transfer intervention prevented Sheffield United from losing a very special young man

After reportedly intervening to prevent Iliman Ndiaye from being sold during last month’s transfer window, Sheffield United’s prospective new owner Dozy Mmobuosi ensured the club has retained the services not only of a supremely gifted footballer but also a special young man.
Iliman Ndiaye (right) is well respected by Sheffield United players such as Jayden Bogle (centre) and James McAtee: Lexy Ilsley / SportimageIliman Ndiaye (right) is well respected by Sheffield United players such as Jayden Bogle (centre) and James McAtee: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage
Iliman Ndiaye (right) is well respected by Sheffield United players such as Jayden Bogle (centre) and James McAtee: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage

That is the verdict of Paul Heckingbottom, who feared the financial difficulties engulfing United’s present board of directors would force them to sell either the Senegal international or Norway’s Sander Berge before Tuesday’s deadline.

With both eventually staying at Bramall Lane, reportedly at the behest of Mmobuosi, Heckingbottom’s promotion-chasing squad has remained largely intact despite United’s problems behind the scenes after the English Football League prohibited them from registering new any new signings due to a number of missed payments owed to rival teams. The sight of Berge and Ndiaye, his joint-leading goalscorer so far this term, staying at Bramall Lane is a major boost to Heckingbottom’s hopes of delivering promotion from the Championship during his first full season at the helm.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom with Iliman Ndiaye: Darren Staples / SportimageSheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom with Iliman Ndiaye: Darren Staples / Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom with Iliman Ndiaye: Darren Staples / Sportimage
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Although Berge had already been capped by Norway when he first arrived in South Yorkshire three years ago, Ndiaye has taken a different route into United’s starting eleven; enrolling on their development programme following a spell in non-league football before making his senior debut.

Aged 22, he impressed for the reigning African champions at the recent World Cup in Qatar - something which will not have gone unnoticed by Mmobuosi, who hails from Nigeria.

“He had the respect of his team mates a long time ago,” Heckingbottom said, tracing Ndiaye’s progression. “He’s not a loud kid, he’s quiet. But he’s blossoming as a person as well as a player and who wouldn’t when performing like that.”

Sheffield United's Iliman Ndiaye (left) has excelled this season: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.Sheffield United's Iliman Ndiaye (left) has excelled this season: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.
Sheffield United's Iliman Ndiaye (left) has excelled this season: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

“There’s no arrogance to him,” the United manager continued. “He’s still working hard and coming in every day determined to get even better. And that’s really important.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mmobuosi, whose credentials are now being studied by the EFL, is likely to be following tomorrow’s game between United and Rotherham closely as Heckingbottom’s men attempt to strengthen their grip on second place at New York Stadium. Ndiaye, who has netted 11 goals since August, is expected to spearhead the visitors’ attack while Berge should also return after being prevented from travelling to last weekend’s FA Cup tie at Wrexham as United considered approaches from Fulham and Newcastle.

Heckingbottom’s men have prepared for the meeting with their 20th ranked opponents 12 points clear of third placed Middlesbrough having played one match fewer than their rivals from Teesside.

Attempting to convince Ndiaye that his long term future remains with United is likely to be one of Mmobuosi’s first tasks if his takeover is ratified, given that the youngster’s contract is scheduled to expire at the end of next season.

“He (Ndiaye) is a hard worker and he's driven, really hungry so he'll keep doing that, as long as he listens and gives his best,” said Heckingbottom. “There's things he does, there's not a chance you could coach that unless you had him from 2 years old.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“What he does with the ball, we have to encourage and nurture it in a game but it's got to be effective. It’s always the final touch he’ll be judged on and, for me, that’s where he’s really improved.”