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Wilder says Sheffield United are ready to use European loan market - but there's an issue

Chris Wilder says Sheffield United are ready to use the overseas loan market to sign a replacement for Jack O’Connell.

O’Connell is currently sidelined after having a knee operation. Although Wilder has hinted the defender could be back in training in February, it will still take some time to regain match fitness.

If O’Connell doesn’t miss the whole season, he’ll certainly be absent for the majority of it.

As yet Wilder has not managed to adequately replace the 26-year-old. The Blades manager said he was “desperate” to sign someone, but that didn’t materialise in the last transfer window.

Instead, Jack Robinson, Enda Stevens and Ethan Ampadu have all been tried in the role so far in 2020/21. None have truly impressed.

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Therefore, Wilder is going to revisit his loan options in January.

“Yes, the European loan is an option. That’s open to us,” the 53-year-old told Yorkshire Live.

“We are open and we have to fill that position with the best possible player that we can get, it’s as simple as that.

“I have had dialogue with the board and there are names on that list. They understand what is needed and it’s ongoing.

“We have talked and had conversations between clubs.

“There is a list we are putting together that makes us better going into the second half of the season and fills a position that we desperately need competition in.”

Problem for Sheffield United in European loan market

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Wilder admits there is an issue with identifying targets in Europe and that is, of course, the ongoing global pandemic.

It means that he can’t send scouts to watch players in person – as he would have done before signing the likes of Sander Berge and Panos Retsos last term.

United currently have one loan player registered in Ampadu, who is on a season-long deal from Chelsea.

Premier League clubs cannot have more than two loanees registered at the same time and cannot sign more than four in total during the campaign.

It means there is one slot open for the Blades in the upcoming window. Although, there is a way for them to circumnavigate it a little.

The maximum number of players who can be signed on loan from fellow Premier League sides at the same time is two. And they cannot be from the same club.

In 2019/20, those positions were filled by Dean Henderson and Mo Besic – on loan from Manchester United and Everton respectively.

However, Retsos and Richairo Zivkovic then arrived in the new year. That was allowed based on two factors.

One, they were from signed from foreign teams, with Retsos arriving from Bayer Leverkusen and Zivkovic joining from Chinese side Changchun Yatai.

Two, their deals included an option to buy. If loanees from overseas clubs are signed with a view to making their move permanent, then the current total can exceed two.

So what does this all mean?

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It sounds complicated, but essentially Wilder is considering a European loanee as a replacement for O’Connell.

This would be as an alternative to signing someone from the Championship – which is the other likely route.

The prime target in that respect appears to be Preston North End’s Ben Davies. Bournemouth defender Diego Rico has also been mentioned.

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