Norwich City's hopes of a swift and successful resolution to the Billy Sharp saga took another, unexpected twist today when the Sheffield Star confirmed that Sheffield United were, indeed, firmly in the race for the 21-year-old's much-prized signature.
And while that may no longer be news after Scunthorpe United chairman Steve Wharton revealed earlier this week that his prized frontman was now the subject of a four-horse race with United, Norwich, Wolves and a water-logged Sheffield Wednesday, what may have changed the picture radically was news from today's business pages.
For there was United chairman Kevin McCabe – currently still at loggerheads with the Premier League over the whole Carlos Tevez affair – selling his entire, 60% holding in the family's Scarborough Property Company empire for ?850 million to the Australian company, Valad.
All of which might come as an unwelcome surprise to both the three other chasing clubs and the compilers of the Sunday Times' infamous Rich List which, earlier this spring, had McCabe in at 304th in their list of Britain's wealthiest – some 40-odd places and ?35 million behind new Canary directors Sharon and Andrew Turner whose Central Trust concern valued them at ?275 million.
Cue some red faces at the Sunday Times after they claimed earlier this year that Scarborough Property Company ?is worth about ?200 million? – a mere ?650 million out.
A spokesman for McCabe – currently en route to Melbourne to talk to investors – explained the decision as part of his ?forward planning?.
“Kevin is 60,? said the spokesman. ?The opportunity came along and he took it as part of his own forward planning.?
The sting came in the tail.
“He is bound to put some of it into the football club and his charitable foundations,” added the spokesman.
While the Blades were always going to be better off to the tune of ?10 million thanks to their Premiership parachute payments, today's news blasts them into a different league altogether depending on just how much money McCabe is prepared to let his new boss, Bryan Robson, play with.
It should, suffice to say, cover any likely transfer fee with Scunthorpe United if the Bramall Lane club wished to bring their one-time Academy starlet 'home' after selling him to the Irons for ?100,000 two years ago.
For while both the Turners and Steve Morgan, the 'money' behind Wolves, feature large in the Sunday Times Rich List, they have long made it clear that their worth is on paper only – it is only when they 'liquidise' such assets, ie sell Central Trust, that such wealth becomes hard cash.
Which is exactly what McCabe has now done.
Little wonder that across the city, Wednesday boss Brian Laws was admitting that the Owls will be lost if people start offering the boy ?silly money?. The presumption there was that would be Wolves' job as Morgan's ?30 million rolls Mick McCarthy's way.
Now it could be Robson with his pockets stuffed with wads of someone else's cash.
Laws also confirmed that they had upped their offer to Scunthorpe for the player. Officially, the Canaries are still the only club to have met Wharton's ?2 million valuation on the player.
“We have made an improved bid. I cannot comment on what that is,? said Laws. “Billy will only go to the club where he wants to go. No-one can make him go anywhere.”
Money – and the red-and-white blood of Sharp's family – may yet prove decisive.
“If people are offering silly money, well, we have to try the best that we can,? said Laws.
Sharp, of course, was due to be given the 'grand tour' of Hillsborough this week – just as he did at Carrow Road last week.
If so, he would have to have done it by boat after Wednesday's ground fell victim to the South Yorkshire flooding and was a good couple of feet under water this morning. Indeed, the club was officially closed yesterday as a result.
City boss Peter Grant, while admitting his frustration at Sharp's tour of the Championship, has remained pretty cool under such transfer fire and has been ensuring that he has at least a couple of other irons glowing should the Sharp one cool.
Hence leaving his club liason officer Bryan Gunn to do this morning's introductions come Matt Gilks' arrival on a two-year deal after the 25-year-old keeper walked out of Rochdale on a free as Grant kept himself in the transfer hunt.
Money will talk – as it did in no uncertain style with Luke Varney's reported ?17,000-a-week switch to Charlton early this summer; just as it did with Russell Anderson's proposed switch from Aberdeen to Sunderland – that and the Black Cats' new-found Premiership status.
Grant admitted in tonight's Evening News that the 28-year-old defender was someone he had ?enquired about?, but Premier League interest ?would blow our wage structure out of the water.?
As for Sharp, the ball was now firmly in the court of the player, his father and his agent – ex-Owls favourite and Radio Sheffield pundit, Imre Varadi.
?We have sold Norwich to him and we hope he's going to be coming, but if decides to go elsewhere, good luck to him, he's a good little player,? Grant said.
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