Former Sheffield United goalkeeper Paddy Kenny has praised Blades manager Slavisa Jokanovic for having a back-up plan in the event Sander Berge leaves Bramall Lane this summer, speaking to Football Insider.
The 23-year-old Norwegian has been heavily linked with a move away from South Yorkshire this summer following his side’s relegation, with Premier League clubs Arsenal, Everton and Aston Villa and Serie A clubs Napoli and Atlanta all said to be interested in acquiring his services.
Berge joined the Blades in January 2020 for a club-record £22m fee but despite dropping down a tier, the Championship side will accept no less than the £35m release clause in his contract with three years still to go on his contract.
The higher or lower Sheffield United transfer fee quiz: can you get 20/20?
New Sheffield United boss Jokanovic has already lost fellow central midfielder John Lundstram this summer and will be reluctant to lose someone of the 23-year-old’s calibre.
But with this clause dropping from £45m to £35m following their demotion from the top flight, interested sides could bypass the South Yorkshire outfit if they match that valuation.
So far though, clubs have been reluctant to stump up the money needed to lure him away from Bramall Lane.
However, there is likely to be more movement on this potential deal later on in the summer with such intense interest in the Norwegian – and former keeper and pundit Paddy Kenny is pleased they have a contingency plan to cope with his possible departure.
Speaking about this and potential replacements to Football Insider, he said: “He’s a good player and a very influential player.
“But if you don’t have a plan in place then if he does leave then you sell yourself short.
“So it’s good thinking to have a plan B in reserve. If he does leave then they’ll have other targets that they can get straight in.
“I don’t know what the manager thinks and how he wants to play in terms of who they’d get in.
“I like how Berge travels with the ball. They haven’t got a lot of players who can do that, so maybe they do need a like-for-like.
“It depends on how he looks at his squad and the kind of football he wants to play.”
It would be hard to see someone of Berge’s quality competing in the second tier next season, so Kenny is right in saying the manager is smart to have a plan B.
Ismaila Sarr’s loyalty to Watford last year shows it’s not impossible, but Jokanovic may urge the board to cash in on the 23-year-old for less than £35m if he believes the midfielder’s mind is elsewhere.
For Sheffield United fans, this would be a massive shame as they haven’t really seen the best of Berge, especially with his injury last season and Covid-19 keeping supporters away from Bramall Lane.
However, they would probably take around £30m if that means they can see Tom Cairney and other targets come in before the window shuts at the end of next month.