Sheffield United: There may be a new blade in town

SHEFFIELD UNITED, who are pushing for a return to the Premier League, could soon be in the hands of a new owner, a move that could help stave off a financial crisis and reposition the club for future growth.

The Bramall Lane regulars thought their club was going to be bought by American investor Henry Mauriss for £ 115 million, but the deal never materialised or got beyond the approval process. The latest interest comes from Nigerian businessman Dozy Mmobuosi, who has tabled a £ 90 million bid for the Blades. 

Sheffield United are currently in second place in the Championship and are well positioned to win a promotion place. They had a taste of the Premier League between 2019-20 and 2020-21 and last season, they finished fifth in the Championship and were knocked out out of the play-offs by Nottingham Forest.

While in the Premier, Sheffield United’s income went up from £ 20.8 million to £ 143 million in 2019-20 and £ 115 million a year later. Their last Championship campaign before promotion saw them pay out 195% of income in wages. With the enormous increase in revenues, United’s wage bill of £ 77.9 million in 2019-20 was a more respectable 54% of earnings.

The club recently admitted that the money earned from their two-year stint in the Premier has now been spent – on wages (£130m), transfer fees (£100m) and club infrastructure (£40m), and that in hindsight, more should have been allocated to the latter. 

In both 2019-20 and 2020-21, Sheffield United made pre-tax profits totalling £ 18.9 million and £ 10.3 million respectively, but cracks have appeared in the club’s finances and they failed to make a transfer instalment payment to another club. It has been reported that the club is Liverpool and it was part of the acquisition of forward Rhian Brewster in October 2020 for £ 23.5 million. It has also been reported that Prince Abdullah, the current owner, had to inject up to £ 20 million into the club and potential new owner, Mmobuosi, has paid an eight-figure sum to ensure two players, Sander Berge and Iliman Ndiaye, can stay at the club and the club could stave off the threat of administration. Both were set to be sold to ease Sheffield United’s problems. As it stands, there could be an exodus of the club’s best players in the summer if the situation fails to improve. 

The result of the Brewster affair is that Sheffield United have been placed under a transfer embargo, which applies only to the EFL, so if they win promotion, they will be free of the sanction.

Mmobuosi is 43 years of age and owns the telecom company Tingo. He is said to have a net worth of £ 7.6 billion, although the Daily Mail reported that Tingo has seen its market value collapse over the past two years. The EFL is currently examining the takeover but it could be a while before the decision around Mmobuosi’s suitability becomes public – the EFL is spending much more time on its due diligence at the moment.

Sheffield United is a big club by many standards and Sheffield remains the world’s first football city, with two sizeable clubs in United and Wednesday and Sheffield FC, the game’s oldest club. United are certainly not out of place in the Premier League, but in order to sustain football at that level, they need to find ways to grow their financial base in order to become more competitive alongside the top clubs. It’s a challenge, but maybe new ownership will transform the Blades.

Eredivisie: Can Feyenoord become champions again?

FEYENOORD and PSV Eindhoven meet this weekend in the Eredivisie, a game that could strengthen the home side’s position at the top of the table or revive PSV’s title bid. At the same time, Ajax, who are one point behind PSV, could still have a say in the race for the top, although the reigning champions are in a state of flux at the moment.

Ajax sacked manager Alfred Schreuder a week ago after a run of seven games without a win, handing the job until the end of the season to John Heitinga, who moved across from Jong Ajax to take charge. His first game, away at Excelsior, ended in a 4-1 victory.

It was always going to be difficult for Schreuder to take over from Erik ten Hag, especially as Ajax lost Antony (€95m) and Lisandro Martinez (€57.4m) to Manchester United, Ryan Gravenberch to Bayern Munich (€ 18.5m) and Sébastien Haller to Borussia Dortmund (€31m). Ajax’s chief executive, Edwin van der Sar, said the sacking was “painful but necessary”.

  PWDLFAPts
1Feyenoord191261431642
2AZ Alkmaar191243402440
3PSV Eindhoven191225472338
4Ajax191072512137

It’s still too early to concede the title, but Ajax cannot afford any more slip-ups. They have drawn far too many games and also lost to PSV and AZ Alkmaar. Their Champions League campaign also ended in the group stage after they lost four of their six games in a group with Liverpool, Napoli and Rangers. They will resume their interest in Europe in the Europa League.

Feyenoord, meanwhile, have lost just once (against PSV) and are two points ahead of AZ. They have been boosted by the goals of Danilo Pereira da Silva, a 23 year-old Brazilian striker signed from Ajax, and their young Turkish skipper, Orkun Köksü, both of whom have eight goals in the Eredivisie. In defence, goalkeeper Justin Bijlow has kept nine clean sheets in his 19 league appearances. Feyenoord’s last Eredivisie success was in 2017 when they pushed Ajax into second place by one point.

Feyenoord’s president has spoken out about the gap between the Eredivisie and the Premier League, who regularly raid the Dutch league for reasonably-priced talent. Three of their stars, Tyrell Malacia, Luis Sinisterra and Marcos Senesi joined Manchester United, Leeds United and Bournemouth for fees totalling € 55 million. While losing top players creates problems, the money is hard to resist for Dutch clubs. It has almost become a way of life and a crucial part of the Dutch football business model. Feyenoord are not as proficient as the other big two clubs in the Netherlands in making profits from player trading.

Interestingly, Dennis te Kloese’s comment in the media came as leading French journalist Julian Lauren was talking about the massive imbalance in European football, created by the Premier’s wealth, the inability of other leagues to keep pace and the threat of the Premier’s counterparts becoming feeder leagues.

Feyenoord, with an average gate of 47,500 at their iconic De Kuip stadium, generated € 87.2 million in the 2021-22 season, of which only € 8 million was attributable to domestic broadcasting. The Eredivisie made the mistake of agreeing a 12-year deal back in 2013, which really puts Dutch clubs at a disadvantage. Feyenoord’s income is over € 100 million less than Ajax’s combined revenues and just slightly less than PSV’s earnings of € 93 million. Although Feyenoord have a lot of ground to make up, they are currently in a much better places than they were a decade ago when their financial situation almost tipped them into oblivion.

PSV, currently in third place, lost a few players in the transfer window, notably World Cup stand-out Cody Gakpo, who moved to Liverpool for €42 million and Noni Madueke to Chelsea for € 35m. Gakpo will be very difficult to replace, but PSV have secured three loan signings to reinforce their squad: Fabio Silva (Wolves), Patrick van Aanholt (Galatasaray) and Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund). 

AZ Alkmaar are currently in second place but nobody really expects them to win the title. They are coached by London-born Pascal Jansen,  the son of a pop singing duo from the early 1970s. Their recent 5-5 draw with  Utrecht showed they know how to score – and concede – goals and they have one of the Eredivisie’s top scorers at the moment in 24 year-old Greek striker Vangelis Pavlidis.

Games to come
Feb 5 2023: Feyenoord v PSV
Feb 19 2023: Feyenoord v AZ
Mar 19 2023: Ajax v Feyenoord
Apr 16 2023: PSV v Ajax
Apr 23 2023: Ajax v AZ
May 28 2023: AZ v PSV