New Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic has turned his transfer focus to a new centre-back this summer according to the Star, with Jack O’Connell set to miss the Championship side’s pre-season training camp.
It was hoped O’Connell, 27, would be available for the Blades this summer after spending the vast majority of last season out, but is not yet ready to return to first-team action and is unlikely to be fully fit in time for the start of the season next month.
With Kean Bryan’s future still up in the air after becoming a free agent last week amid strong interest from West Brom, Ethan Ampadu returning to Chelsea and Phil Jagielka being released in the summer, Chris Basham and John Egan are the only real options Jokanovic currently has in central defence and it now looks to be of their weakest positions going into next month’s Championship opener.
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But according to The Sun journalist Alan Nixon, Matt Clarke could potentially be heading to South Yorkshire with Derby County and the Blades both said to be interested in a move for 24-year-old.
Clarke has played a limited amount of first-team football in the Premier League for Brighton and Hove Albion since his arrival in 2019 – and the club could be willing to cut their ties permanently if the price is right.
Sheffield United look to be the current front runners for the central defender with more money to spend than the Rams – but this deal could go to the wire if other clubs come in.
As per the Sheffield Star, Jokanovic’s initial focus in the transfer market was on a central midfielder with John Lundstram leaving the club this summer and Sander Berge’s rumoured exit – but could be put on the back burner until the latter leaves with central defence a key position for the Serbian to sort out.
Although the new boss is completely correct in saying his Sheffield United squad is strong and potentially the best he’s inherited in England, quality alone will not guide Sheffield United back to the Premier League next term.
Something that will majorly boost their chances though is having strength in depth – and if they can bring in another central defender and retain the services of Kean Bryan – the situation at the back will already look much better at Bramall Lane.
Jack O’Connell has been an excellent player for Sheffield United, so anyone who comes in will have big temporary shoes to fill until the Irish 27-year-old makes a full recovery.
Jokanovic is also right to identify central midfielder as another position to target with Berge’s likely exit in the next couple of months – but they may also want to look at getting a new striker in if they can shift a few out first because their forwards were toothless (other than McGoldrick) in front of goal last year.