The influence of Jan van Winckel at Sheffield United is being felt through their transfer business – both rumoured and actual.
A close associate of Blades owner Prince Abdullah, Van Winckel was appointed to the board in December 2017 by the Saudi prince.
The Daily Mail reports that was a “key factor” in the relationship breakdown with Kevin McCabe. The dispute between the club’s co-owners ended in the High Court and McCabe was ordered to sell his stake in the club.
The report also says that coaching staff were unhappy with Van Winckel’s role. Yet the Belgian is at Bramall Lane to stay, with Prince Abdullah telling Sky Sports News after taking sole control:
“He’s one of the best people I know and has a good eye for talent.”
Both men are also involved at Belgian second division side Beerschot. Van Winckel is on the board and Prince Abdullah partly owns the club. The former is also technical director for the Saudi Arabian Football Federation.
The links between the two men are strong and influences from Belgium at United are being felt.
The Jan van Winckel effect at Sheffield United
Last week, Belgian newspaper Het Laaste Nieuws claimed that the Blades made an £8.9m bid for Club Brugge striker Emmanuel Dennis over the summer.
Dennis had just made headlines across the world after scoring twice against Real Madrid in the Champions League. His goals earned a shock 2-2 draw at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and his Cristiano Ronaldo-style celebration went viral.
Apparently if United had raised their offer to £13.3m they could have signed the Nigeria international.
The same publication previously reported of interest from South Yorkshire in Genk midfielder Sander Berge. While Berge was tempted by a switch to the Premier League, he apparently set his sights higher than a newly promoted club.
Then there was the arrival of Michael Verrips from KV Mechelen. The goalkeeper signed on a free transfer, although has since been reported to FIFA by his former employers.
Verrips decided his contract was void when Mechelen were eliminated from the Europa League for alleged match-fixing.
These links with Belgian football almost certainly aren’t coincidental. And are unlikely to end soon with Van Winckel’s presence becoming increasingly prominent.