Sheffield United weren’t the only Premier League side interested in signing Sander Berge.
Berge became the Blades’ club record signing in January after joining from Genk in a £22m deal (BBC Sport).
They weren’t alone in showing interest in one of Europe’s most highly rated young midfielders.
In November, the performance of Berge against Liverpool in the Champions League caught the eye of Jurgen Klopp. Genk’s sport director, Dimitri De Conde, later confirmed Napoli were also keen.
“Napoli are interested in Sander, it’s a possibility,” De Conde was quoted by Football Italia.
“We also know that Liverpool are also interested and Klopp, after the game at Anfield, complimented him on his performance.”
At this point United had already been knocked back by Berge. They first made an approach in the summer ahead of their first top flight season in 12 years.
Berge was wary of joining a newly promoted team. Brighton and Hove Albion, Sevilla and Tottenham Hotspur were also thought to be keeping tabs.
Sander Berge eventually made his move to the Premier League
By the January transfer window much had changed. The Blades, under manager Chris Wilder, had taken the division in their stride.
There was no longer talk of relegation, but rather European qualification. Berge was clearly convinced and finally completed his move to Bramall Lane.
What might be even more galling for the Toffees is that they could have signed the 22-year-old for just £1.7m three years prior.
Still at Valerenga in his native Norway, Berge’s manager at the time explains.
“Of course, Sander wanted to go to the Premier League, but Everton weren’t being generous enough,” Kjetil Rekdal told Sport/Foot, as quoted by Sport Witness.
“Genk were offering more.”
Berge was also on Wilder’s radar by now, but with the Blades still a League One side at that time, they had to bide their time.
Patience paid off and the Norwegian eventually arrived in South Yorkshire. United CEO, Stephen Bettis, says they caught other clubs “on the hop” by making their move in January, rather than waiting for the summer.
They made Berge feel truly wanted.
“It’s been a special relationship since day one,” he explains
“The manager told me how much he wanted me, how much the club wanted me, what I could bring to the team and the goals and ambitions.
“They know my qualities here but they have been very thoughtful, very patient with me.”