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Belgian pundit says Coulibaly could be back at Sheffield United sooner than expected - why that's unlikely

Former Premier League and Belgium defender, Philippe Albert, thinks Ismaila Coulibaly could be back at Sheffield United sooner than expected.

The Blades signed Coulibaly from Norwegian side Sarpsborg 08 in September for £1.8m – according to Sport Witness.

The midfielder was immediately sent on loan to Belgian Pro League side Beerschot for the next three seasons.

They’re part owned by United owner Prince Abdullah and there is a partnership between the two clubs as a result.

Coulibaly has since impressed, scoring four goals in seven appearances for Beerschot. This included the winner at Mechelen at the weekend. The result fired the newly promoted team to the top of the table.

With the Blades currently struggling at the bottom of the Premier League, ex-Newcastle United star Albert thinks they could bring the 19-year-old back to Bramall Lane sooner than expected.

“While Sheffield United are last in the Premier League they may be bringing Coulibaly to England earlier than planned,” the 53-year-old, who’s now a pundit in his home country, told La Capitale.

Why Sheffield United return is unlikely for Coulibaly

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With the teenager impressing for the leaders in the Belgian top flight and United lacking options in midfield, it’s easy to see why Albert might suggest this.

However, there is a key reason Coulibaly was loaned to Beerschot immediately after signing.

It’s because the Mali Under-20 international would not be able to obtain a work permit to play in the UK as things stand.

Strict rules mean non-EU players need to meet certain criteria to be granted a permit. This usually involves them playing a large proportion of their country’s most recent international matches.

Coulibaly has four caps for the Under-20s but has never featured for Mali at senior level.

The other option is for them to obtain an EU passport. They can do this by getting citizenship in another EU country.

Belgium is known to be one of the most flexible countries in Europe for getting citizenship. It’s granted to someone after living and working in the country for three years.

Coincidentally, this is the exact length of Coulibaly’s loan deal with Beerschot.

So unless the youngster starts playing regularly for Mali, there will be no early return to Bramall Lane as Albert suggests.

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