Why forgotten man Iliman Ndiaye could be biggest winner of Sheffield United's late window despair
After Sheffield United tried and failed to sign two wingers from overseas in the final hours of the transfer window, the biggest winner from deadline day from a Blades perspective may already be at Bramall Lane if boss Slavisa Jokanović follows through with his plan to play a 4-3-3 formation this season.
Both Alex Collado and Yann Karamoh were identified as targets for the Blades as Jokanović set about reprofiling his squad, which had been assembled over a number of years very much with 3-5-2 in mind and, as such, contained precious little in terms of genuine wide men.
Oliver Burke is probably the closest United have, but has so far flattered to deceive when played while it is hardly a position which will get the best out of Rhian Brewster, the youngster who played out on the left on his return to Swansea.
Earlier on deadline day, before the deals for Collado and Karamoh first began to show signs they may break down, United’s U23s travelled to Charlton Athletic and there was a potentially significant name on the visitors’ teamsheet – that of Iliman Ndiaye.
A Premier League debut maker for the Blades, having come off the bench in their 5-0 hammering at Leicester in Paul Heckingbottom’s first game in caretaker charge, Ndiaye then virtually disappeared from view – with both first team and U23s.
The Frenchman rejected an offer of a new contract last season, with both player and representatives feeling it did not at all reflect his ability and promise, and it’s understood that there were suggestions that the French-born youngster not be picked again while the dispute continued.
There seemed to be some breakthrough when Ndiaye travelled with the United senior squad for their pre-season training camp abroad, but there was no further sign until he came off the bench in the Blades’ EFL Cup win over Derby in the last round.
Although not in the final 18 at Kenilworth Road, Ndiaye also travelled to Luton Town with the Blades before the break – suggesting that some sort of impasse may have been reached with a player who is out of contract at the end of this season.
"Right now I am not focussing about if he signs or if he does not sign,” Blades boss Jokanović said after the goalless draw at Luton, before the transfer deadline.
“It's a long story. I need to find something that I am interested about, which is fresh blood, some different players, some quality. I try to see if this guy can add some quality.
“We believe he is a talented player; we brought him with us today and I believe he can add something that we miss. I believe he can be a good player for us in the future."
Two goals in the 3-0 U23 victory at Charlton did nothing to quell the calls for Ndiaye to be given a chance in the first-team and his recent reappearance in the public eye certainly points that way, too.
Even if there has been no breakthrough in the contract talks, Jokanović and his coaching staff may have come to the conclusion that there is no point having a prodigiously-talented young player in your ranks, if he isn’t playing football. The Blades are crying out for creativity, which Ndiaye has by the bagful; having him sat at home on matchday does not benefit club or player, and certainly not Jokanović.