Milan Mandaric says he is mystified by Southampton’s stance in holding on to Sheffield Wednesday target Billy Sharp against the player’s wishes.
The Owls chairman insists today that he and his manager Dave Jones are not giving up on landing Sharp – or bringing back Leroy Lita from Swansea.
Mandaric, talking to the Telegraph, is adamant that most Championship clubs would struggle to match Sharp’s reported £18,000 a week wages, but he is playing a waiting game in the hope that “sense” prevails.
Southampton are maintaining that the former Sheffield United striker can only be loaned to a club prepared to meet that amount in full.
“That is steep for Championship budgets where the maximum salary is probably around £10,000 a week,” said Mandaric. “You can’t criticise the club because that is their prerogative.
“But what I don’t understand is the player just sitting there and not playing. Why not a sensible situation? Why not put him on the stage to move on?”
Mandaric revealed that Wednesday themselves “never get full” wage for the players they loan out, pointing out they have subsidised defender Martin Taylor’s switch to League One Brentford this week.
On Sharp and Southampton, he added: “Why would you keep a player if he doesn’t have a chance to be part of the squad? I think it’s not good business and not good for the player. But, as I’ve said, he’s their player and it’s their prerogative.”
Mandaric clearly feels pressure could mount for Saints to modify their demands. That also suggests he might be prepared to lift Hillsborough’s wage ceiling for something akin to a 50-50 compromise on Sharp, a proven Championship marksman in spells with Doncaster and Nottingham Forest.
The Wednesday chief, also expecting the arrival of a new centre back last night, declared: “We’ll see what happens.”
Mandaric confirmed that Lita remains on the hit list as well as recruitment to a midfield that has long looked short of composure and creativity as the Owls seek a first win of the season at home to Yeovil on Saturday. He said: “We’re working on a couple of players and would hope that something happens this week. But it’s hard. Our manager is still waiting to see some of the Premier League squad lists.”
A further move to bring in young England keeper Jack Butland on loan from Stoke was also gathering pace as the Telegraph went to press. “Our manager is very much interested,” Mandaric confirmed. “You can’t risk an injury to your keeper and he’s looking at having another.”
That leaves Chris Kirkland, the club’s commanding and popular No 1, at the centre of some intrigue in that the sole purpose of Stoke releasing Butland, and the player agreeing, would be to get some competitive games.
Mandaric didn’t entirely dismiss it. “Just speculation,” he said of rumoured interest from Crystal Palace. That said, the prospect of a big January bid for Kirkland, leading to a substantial cash infusion in the next window, might conceivably be a way to finance deals for the present at a time when money is tight.
As for the takeover gossip, Mandaric reports nothing new. “There are a couple of groups of serious people,” he said, confirming that the Chinese interest remains current.
“It could happen quickly. Or it could be a year... or five years.”