Speculation about who will leave Sheffield United this summer has already begun following their relegation.
The long-awaited confirmation that the Blades had dropped back down to the Championship came on Saturday.
Their 1-0 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers meant United also sealed the unwanted record of the joint earliest relegation from the Premier League.
Several names had been linked with an exit from Bramall Lane prior to the drop. But now it’s been confirmed, Sky Sports reports Sander Berge, John Egan and Jack O’Connell are the most likely to leave.
Chris Wilder had previously told the board they needed to “keep the squad together” if they went down.
This was before Wilder left his position as manager. Paul Heckingbottom – the man who has replaced him on a caretaker basis – reiterated that message following the loss to Wolves.
Yet while the majority of the Blades squad could be kept together, it’s going to be difficult to retain them all.
Especially after they have experienced the highs of finishing ninth in the top flight in 2019/20. They’ll want to keep doing that, even if it means leaving South Yorkshire.
The Sheffield United players who could leave after relegation
There is little to no hope that Berge will remain as a Blades player beyond this campaign.
A club record £22m signing when he arrived from Genk in January 2019, the Norway international is extremely talented.
When United were flying high in the Premier League top ten they were matching it. In the Championship, they won’t.
Berge’s class is shown by the fact Liverpool and Manchester City are among the sides said to be interested in the 23-year-old. But the Blades currently have a £35m asking price.
What about the others?
As for Egan and O’Connell, the future seems less clear.
The former was linked with Everton last season as United impressed many with their defensive nous.
With Egan at the heart of back three, Wilder’s team conceded just 39 goals in 2019/20. Only the top three let in fewer.
Yet Egan has since signed a new contract keeping him at Bramall Lane until 2024. The Republic of Ireland international also turns 29 in October.
It could happen, but Egan is certainly a less attractive prospect than Berge for buying clubs.
As for O’Connell, his selling potential has probably been diminished by barely playing in 2020/21.
Knee surgery has kept the 26-year-old on the sidelines since September.
But like Egan, O’Connell almost certainly caught a few eyes with his impressive performances last season.
It led to England boss Gareth Southgate watching the defender ahead of a potential call up.
Blades fans are likely to be resigned to losing Berge. But if Egan and O’Connell went too, that would be a major blow.