Why Iliman Ndiaye will stay at Sheffield United next season
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He’s a guaranteed £30m plus punt for almost any club in the Premier League and promotion won’t stop the speculation. But here’s a prediction from the off - Ndiaye will be staying at Bramall Lane. Why? Not necessarily because the Blades want to keep him, even though they genuinely do.
And not because United will match the wages on offer elsewhere under any new deal. He’ll stay simply because he’s the way he is. The way he is off the field, besides his prodigious talent on it.
The young Frenchman has made as deep an impression on those who have met him as his high speed skill and trickery has beguiled us.
He might be a star already, set to become much bigger, but he doesn’t behave like one. On the pitch, he’s a team player, working as hard off the ball as anyone - the reason why Paul Heckingbottom made him an automatic choice for his match-winning ability while others were being rotated.
Away from the limelight, he’s just a nice kid - as others, much better placed than me, will tell you. But I’ve seen enough of him, on the touchline after games and in a chat at the Sheffield Star Football Awards, to know he’s naturally modest and very well grounded.
There’s a swagger on the field and none off it. He appreciates, I’m sure, what Sheffield United have done for him more as much as what he has done for them.
Why else did he turn down a potential move to Everton in January? Yes, it’s turned out well for him in the light of subsequent events but there was no certainty United would be in the top flight next season.
Now that they are, Ndiaye will know that - fitness and form permitting - he is likely to start the majority of games. He couldn’t count on that elsewhere, whatever the riches on offer. I’m convinced Ndiaye is content with his lot - for now. Same goes for United’s other biggest players, Sander Berge and Anel Ahmedhodzic.
All three have formed an emotional attachment. So, whatever the well-founded worries on other fronts as Heckingbottom battles for a workable squad, keeping this trio would represent a fantastic start.