Sheffield United have been dealt a huge blow in their bid to bring Tom Cairney to Bramall Lane this summer.
That’s according to a report by Football League World, who claim that Slavisa Jokanovic’s side are unable to match Fulham’s asking price for the central midfielder, leaving the Blades’ interest in the 30-year-old at something of a crossroads.
The report goes on to state that the 52-year-old manager was hoping to make his former player one of the first signings of his reign at Bramall Lane, however, as things stand, a United move for the Scotland international does not look overly feasible.
Earlier reports have suggested that the Cottagers would be willing to part with Cairney for a fee of around £10m this summer, although others have claimed that the west London side have informed Jokanovic that the Scot is non-transferable.
While Jokanovic will undoubtedly be disappointed about not being able to bring in a player who he clearly appreciates greatly, the fact that Fulham seem to be playing hardball over the transfer of the 30-year-old could actually be a blessing in disguise for the Blades.
With Conor Hourihane reported to be available this summer, with United having been linked with a move for the 30-year-old, not only would the Aston Villa man appear to be a much more cost-friendly addition than Cairney, but there is also an argument to be made that the Republic of Ireland international would actually be a better signing in the first place.
Indeed, when comparing the two players’ form in the seasons their respective teams were last promoted to the Premier League, there would only appear to be one winner.
Over Cairney’s 34 Championship appearances for Fulham in 2019/20, the £8.1m-rated man bagged five goals, provided five assists and created four big chances for his teammates, as well as taking an average of 1.1 shots and making 1.9 key passes per game.
These metrics saw the £27k-per-week midfielder – whom Scott Parked dubbed an “outstanding” player – earn a seasonal SofaScore match rating of 7.35, ranking him as the Cottagers’ joint second-best performer in the league that year.
Meanwhile, over Hourihane’s 46 Championship appearances in 2018/19, the £30k-per-week man scored eight goals, registered 12 assists and created 11 big chances for his teammates, as well as taking an average of 1.8 shots and completing 1.6 key passes per game.
As such, with Hourihane bettering Cairney’s return of goals, assists and chances created, in addition to having a considerably lower valuation than the Scot, it would very much appear the smart move for Jokanovic this summer would be to pursue the Villa midfielder over the Fulham star.