Character counts in Sheffield United recruitment drive as Ben Brereton Diaz and Anel Ahmedhodzic get glowing references

Sheffield United had hoped to have their January transfer business done by now but when the last two pieces of the jigsaw do arrive, Chris Wilder believes they will provide character as well as quality.

The Blades had aimed to make two more signings by noon on Friday, to allow them to play in Sunday's Premier League match at home to West Ham United, but ran out of time on both and hope to tie them up next week.

One is believed to be Croatia goalkeeper Ivo Grbic, whilst Wilder spoke of sending Luke Thomas back to Leicester City to free up another domestic loan.

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He dismissed talk prompted, bizarrely, by Cardiff City manager Erol Bulut of a move for Fenerbahce's former Liverpool and Rangers winger Ryan Kent, also linked to Hull City.

"TOUGH BOY": Sheffield United centre-back Anel Ahmedhodzic"TOUGH BOY": Sheffield United centre-back Anel Ahmedhodzic
"TOUGH BOY": Sheffield United centre-back Anel Ahmedhodzic

With his Atletico Madrid contract expiring in the summer, Grbic could be available for £2m if both parties are prepared to commit to that, knowing the Blades could well be in next season's Championship with a 10-point gap to safety to make up in their final 18 league games.

Atletico are believed to have targeted Rapid Bucharest goalkeeper Horatiu Moldovan as a replacement.

Last night, reports claimed a loan swoop for former Barnsley defender Mason Holgate collapsed after Everton’s last-minute demand for a bigger fee.

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Ben Brereton Diaz, who joined on loan from Villarreal early in the window, will therefore be the only player in line to make his first Premier League appearance for the Blades at the weekend. The Chile striker made his debut in the FA Cup at Gillingham before their winter break.

TARGET: Sheffield United are reportedly in talks with Atletico Madrid over goalkeeper Ivo GrbicTARGET: Sheffield United are reportedly in talks with Atletico Madrid over goalkeeper Ivo Grbic
TARGET: Sheffield United are reportedly in talks with Atletico Madrid over goalkeeper Ivo Grbic

“We will be in a better place when the window shuts,” promised Wilder. “We are quite frustrated because we felt we could have got them in for the weekend but we have worked very hard in identifying a couple of potential signings.”

He is confident Anel Ahmedhodzic's head will not be turned by reported interest from Italian champions Napoli having had glowing character references on both him and Brereton Diaz from their former academy coach, Jack Lester – now part of the Blades backroom.

Having the right personalities in the dressing room has always been important to Wilder.

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“I have spoken to Anel about it (the rumours), he is a grounded individual and he loves playing for Sheffield United,” said Wilder. “I don't think speculation is a bad thing. You'd rather be talked about than not talked about.

“He's a tough boy if you dig a little bit deeper on his personality and background. There were a couple of things Jack said regarding him and Ben Brereton Diaz, they were big leaders in the (Forest) academy.

“I don't think he's going to be organising club dos and being the life and soul of the changing room but there are different ways of being a captain and leading by example.

“He's not showed any signs to me or anybody that he wants to leave the building. We've tried to surround ourselves in the past with positive players and in that group we had before there were a lot of people who had been captains at different clubs previously.”

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That Brereton Diaz jumped at the chance to join the Blades' relegation fight also impressed Wilder. “He'd not played much football at Villareal but he wanted to come,” said his new manager.

“He came on for 20 minutes at Gillingham, which was good for us to get him out on the pitch and integrated with the players. We believe we're a good fit for Ben and vice-versa. There's a bit of pressure on him but he understands that he's come to help, as have a couple of other players who will hopefully come into the building next week.”

Wilder said youngsters Daniel Jebbison and Oliver Arblaster – back after a loan at Port Vale – are close to signing new contracts.

“We identified the young players we need to tie down, we identified the January transfer window (targets) so if we get our business done in the next four or five days we can settle down and crack on with looking into the players out of contract in the summer,” he said.