Some teams will be revitalized by the January sales. They intend to weaken others. The only certainty is that events over the next three and a half weeks will undoubtedly have an impact on the division and its rankings..
Not long ago, residents of Bramall Lane were warned not to expect any activity. After seeing their squad make an impressive start to the season, Paul Heckingbottom and his staff were publicly briefing that their priority was to ensure it remained intact for the visit to neighbours Rotherham on February 4th..
However, the parameters have abruptly changed. Reda Khadra, whose loan from Brighton and Hove Albion is set to expire at the end of the season, has been told he can return to the south coast if a replacement is found. As a result of the German under-21 international’s struggles in South Yorkshire, United and their manager are suddenly looking for a new player.
The Star’s James Shield identifies and explains some of the major issues confronting Heckingbottom and his board of directors during the winter transfer window, with United sitting second in the table and nine points clear of third after Monday’s draw with Queens Park Rangers.
What does Sheffield United desire?
In a nutshell, a new attacker. Khadra wants to leave, and given how the first half of the season has gone, you can’t blame either him or United for wanting to end the contract early. Given the constraints on Heckingbottom’s budget, it makes no sense for him to commit a significant portion of it to retaining someone who has only been on the outskirts of his starting eleven. Khadra requires football, and Brighton, whose top-flight status means they don’t require the money, is only seeing the value of their asset dwindle week by week.
It will be interesting to see what type of forward Heckingbottom chooses..
Someone of the 21-year-caliber old’s would be the obvious choice. But, given Khadra’s lack of opportunities, is this the best course of action? Most likely not. Billy Sharp, who is currently leading United’s frontline, will turn 37 soon, Daniel Jebbison has yet to reach his full potential, and Rhian Brewster’s injury has left United desperately short of centre-forwards. Will Osula has been recalled from Derby County, but leading the line for a side aiming for automatic promotion is asking a lot of someone with only six starts to their name..
What are the causes of Reda Khadra’s difficulties?
The player must accept responsibility, as some of his teammates appeared to become frustrated with his work ethic and tactical discipline during a trip to Bristol City earlier this season. However, United cannot absolve themselves of all responsibility. Khadra is clearly a talent, having excelled during a similar spell with Blackburn Rovers the previous season. However, he has had very few opportunities to demonstrate it in his preferred position. And when he did, as in September’s win over Swansea City, United’s rotation policy meant he sat out the rest of their next game.
So, what was the point of signing Khadra in the first place?
Heckingbottom will never publicly admit this. You also can’t blame him for that. But, given his summer focus on acquiring midfielders of various stripes, including Tommy Doyle and James McAtee from Manchester City, one suspects he expected Sander Berge to be sold in order to recoup some cash. The Norwegian was much closer to leaving than many people realized at the time, with clubs such as Club Brugge and Chelsea showing interest. The story that United’s hierarchy blocked his sale is also probably not entirely accurate.
When Berge stayed and McAtee got his bearings, Khadra’s options were always going to be limited.
Are any players on the verge of leaving?
Perhaps, with Senegal’s Iliman Ndiaye impressing at the World Cup and Berge, understandably, aspiring to play at the highest level. That includes both European and domestic competition.
When Heckingbottom talks about protecting the team in order to pursue the biggest prize available to United, he is also making his position on this abundantly clear to anyone who cares to listen: If Ndiaye or Berge leave now, it has nothing to do with me.
Is the proposed takeover situation having an effect on the manager’s plans?
Without a doubt, yes. When asked about Khadra’s situation ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup tie at Millwall, Heckingbottom admitted that he would only let him return to Brighton if he “could” find someone else..
If he had more financial leeway, the 45-year-old eloquent speaker would have chosen his words differently.
With Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in talks to relinquish control of the club, almost certainly due to a lack of funding, United would hire Heckingbottom and then deal with Khadra. But they’re not doing it. And the clues are there if you look at what’s going on behind the scenes, such as the ongoing delay in opening the new pitch at the Randox Health Academy.
Could United add more than one new player?
Possibly. If Ndiaye leaves, which is far from certain, Heckingbottom will be given a percentage of his fee to spend on expanding his options.
United are in a difficult position with Ndiaye because, as their contract grip has loosened, his value will never be higher than it is now. Their joint-leading scorer is about to enter the final year of his contract. But selling him now would be ridiculous unless United is in a dire financial situation.
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