In a hugely successful return to the Premier League for Sheffield United, Chris Basham was named player of the year.
Basham was one of four players who started every league game for the club in 2019/20. The others were George Baldock, Ollie Norwood and Enda Stevens.
The 32-year-old was rewarded for his fine form with a new contract, extending his stay at Bramall Lane until 2022.
It’s extremely impressive for a player who, a little over three years ago, was playing for the Blades in League One. In Chris Wilder’s unique 3-5-2 system, Basham has adapted brilliantly. No other player has mastered the role of the overlapping centre-back quite like him.
Yet he is also the player – along with arguably Baldock – who is the most difficult to replace. Wilder appears to already be dipping into the transfer market for a new right wing-back after a failed bid for Nottingham Forest’s Matty Cash.
As for Basham, there is currently no other natural alternative to him in the United squad.
What do Sheffield United do about the Chris Basham problem?
It is an issue that will not have escaped Wilder. In January, the 52-year-old addressed the same thing on the left-side of central defence with the signing of Jack Robinson. This proved crucial when the season restarted after lockdown, with Robinson having to fill in for the injured Jack O’Connell.
It had been hoped Jack Rodwell might provide similar cover for Basham on the right. Rodwell was used in the position during his Blades debut against AFC Fylde in the FA Cup.
Yet the 29-year-old played just once more, in midfield, last term and has since been released.
Meanwhile, January signing Panos Retsos has returned to Bayer Leverkusen, with the club deciding not to activate a clause to sign him permanently.
Others have been linked and would potentially be great signings. Unfortunately, the two biggest targets are looking increasingly unlikely to join.
United are apparently interested in Swansea City’s Joe Rodon, who is believed to be available for around £20m. While the Swans’ defeat in the Championship playoffs helps their chances, the Independent reports Rodon is a key target for Manchester United.
The 22-year-old is considered to be a viable alternative to Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli or RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano. Competing with Man United for his signature would be nigh on impossible.
Then there is Luke Woolfenden of Ipswich Town. The 21-year-old already plays in a back three for Ipswich and has also been linked with a move to South Yorkshire.
Yet Woolfenden committed his future to the League One side in July when he signed a new four-year contract at Portman Road.
Finding an alternative to Basham could well be Wilder’s biggest challenge of the summer.