Sheffield United owner Prince Abdullah has blamed Chris Wilder for the breakdown of talks over an initial loan for Rhian Brewster, forcing them into a £23.5 million deal.
It was surprising to hear Wilder speak so openly about his pursuit of a new striker last summer, which allowed speculation over Brewster’s future at Liverpool to mount.
“We have made enquiries about a few strikers and most on loan,” he said in September, two weeks before a deal came to fruition.
“Rhian is one we have talked about and spoken to Liverpool about.”
The Blades had hoped for a loan deal, but eventually agreed a club-record permanent transfer worth £23.5 million, with Liverpool negotiating a buy-back clause as part of the package.
Brewster’s time at Bramall Lane has not gone according to plan, with no goals or assists in 23 appearances for the club, and with Wilder now having departed, it is clear the pressure has not helped the striker’s situation.
Sheffield United are still planning to build around Brewster as part of the squad that is likely to head into next season in the Championship, but Prince Abdullah has blamed Wilder for his role in the club’s poor recruitment and its impact on their fortunes.
“We have invested a lot in the club, but we don’t have unlimited resources, so if we invest £120 million, you better get £120 million value,” the owner told Sky Sports.
“I told Chris I will not accept in the future – say that you want [Aaron] Ramsdale – to come to me with one option, only Ramsdale because that put us in a weak position.
“The other club will know you only have one option.
“It also didn’t help that with Brewster that Chris talked about him before we even signed him.
“I thought and Stephen [Bettis, CEO] thought we maybe could have got him on loan and if we had stayed in the Premier League, we would be obliged to buy him.”
Prince Abdullah was at pains to stress that “Brewster will be [one of] the cornerstones of the team next year and the years after,” but “this year we needed players to help us this season.”
It appears, then, that Wilder’s long-term vision would have featured both Ramsdale and Brewster heavily, but with results dipping dramatically, the owners saw it as a gamble that did not pay off.
The claim that Sheffield United were hopeful of agreeing a loan deal with Liverpool, with an obligation to buy Brewster only if they stayed up, is particularly interesting.
This certainly would have made more financial sense, but Wilder’s frequent comments on the situation looked to have given Michael Edwards grounds to demand an up-front fee and even include a buy-back clause.
Now, it is unlikely Brewster will return to Liverpool, and it posits him as the unfortunate victim of a difference of opinion between the club’s owner and the former manager.