Diego De Girolamo was last night told he can become a star of the future at Bramall Lane after Sheffield United opened talks about extending his contract, writes James Shield.
Nigel Clough, the League One club’s manager, confirmed negotiations between coaching staff and the player’s representatives are taking place after he returned to the Redtooth Academy for treatment on an injury sustained during a loan spell with York City.
Although Clough acknowledged De Girolamo “is probably a little bit frustrated” by his lack of first team exposure in South Yorkshire this season, the former England international insisted the teenager should view United’s gesture as an affirmation of their belief in his talents.
“We’re in discussions and we’re keen to do something with Diego,” Clough told The Star. “His present deal is up at the end of the season and although we would retain compensation rights, that’s not really a route we want to go down.
“Diego is back here with us at the moment and that certainly won’t do him any harm. We want to get him sorted out and get him tied up to something for possibly the next couple of years.”
De Girolamo, who has been capped by Italy at under-18, under-19 and under-20 level, spent a year on the sidelines after rupturing knee ligaments in March 2013 and Clough added: “I know Diego is probably a little bit frustrated by the number of chances he’s had here of late but he’s been out for a year. So, this season was always going to be about getting him fit and then some experience which we still think he needs.
“When you’ve been out for such a long time, for 12 months, it takes a while to get completely up to speed again. When you consider his age and then take that time out, Diego is really at the stage where he’s just coming to the end of his scholarship. But the very fact that we’ve taken this step tells you what we think about him and the belief we have.”
Clough, whose side host Preston North End in a pivotal League One fixture this weekend, indicated De Girolamo could make his eighth appearance for United when they renew hostilities with Simon Grayson’s side in the FA Cup fourth round.
“Diego is one of the few lads out who isn’t cup tied and so we’ll possibly try to squeeze him in if we can.” Clough said. “We will get his contract sorted out and then maybe get him back out for some more experience.
“I think he has had a good time at York and I am very happy for him to get back out there with Russ Wilcox, which will happen as and when he signs that deal.”
Sixth placed United, who are 12 points and three positions behind North End in the table, will also allow centre-forward Chris Porter and goalkeeper George Long to depart before next month’s deadline. Porter has been the subject of interest from several English clubs but, after impressing for Motherwell earlier in his career, is expected to return north of the border. Possibly on a permanent basis.
“We have had enquiries for Chris and it’s up to him where he wants to go,” Clough said. “A couple north of the border as well so it will be very much up to him where he wants to spend the second half of the season and maybe beyond.
“I think it will be a permanent. He did very well last season but we have just moved on with the strikers.
“We’ve had Michael Higdon and Marc McNulty sitting on the bench. I think we’ve enough there.”