Former Sheffield United ace wanted by multiple Premier League clubs

Former Sheffield United star Iliman Ndiaye could make a return to English football this summer with reports suggesting that Olympique Marseille are open to a departure. According to Foot Mercato, Everton have reignited their interest in the Senegal international.

The 24-year-old played a huge part in Sheffield United’s promotion to the Premier League in the 2022/23 campaign where he netted 14 goals and provided 11 assists in 46 Championship games.

Heading into the top flight season there was much anticipation around Ndiaye stepping up to the Premier League, but he would ultimately reject a new contract with the Blades which forced United into selling him last summer. This decision sparked a huge debate among the fan base – but the real issue at play was selling him right before the start of the season.

Ndiaye would be sold to his boyhood club Marseille for a reported fee of £20 million, per the BBC. In his debut season in France he would make 30 Ligue 1 appearances (19 starts), scoring three goals and serving up five assists. He also made 14 appearances in the Europa League and added a goal to his name.

Could Iliman Ndiaye have improved Sheffield United in the previous campaign?

Naturally United fans asked the question: would Iliman Ndiaye have made Sheffield United better in their disastrous Premier League campaign? I would say yes and no because of how flawed the defence was.

Ndiaye was an excellent ball retention player in the Championship and he has carried on proving that in Ligue 1. There has also been a theory going around on social media these past months claiming that “Ndiaye hasn’t done it in Ligue 1 which is an inferior league to the Premier League”. For me these type of claims are pointless to make because there are a ton of hidden gems in France, hence why top clubs from around Europe sign players from even mid-table Ligue 1 teams pretty much every summer.

Iliman Ndiaye’s stats from last season

Ndiaye’s statistics compared to the top five European leagues are something that he 100% could have replicated in the Premier League. He ranked in the 99th percentile for passing completion compared to other forwards and this number wasn’t diluted with simple low risky passes because he ranked in the 78th percentile for expected Assists per 90, proving his creative qualities. Additionally he ranked in the 82nd percentile for shot-creating actions with the vast majority of them coming via a take-on, per FBref.

The Blades deeply missed Ndiaye’s presence up front; often he would drop in between the lines and offer himself for a pass, and you know he has the ability to turn and link play or even ghost past a couple of players. The Marseille man is one of the best dribblers in Europe, ranking in the top percentile for successful take-ons and 90th for carries into the final third.

He remained a progressive machine in France by averaging over eight progressive passes received per 90 (90th percentile), he averaged almost four progressive passes per 90 (90th percentile), and he made a little over three progressive carries per 90 (93rd percentile).

The other huge thing United missed last season was Ndiaye’s pressing abilities. His work rate is incredible but he is also very smart at how he presses. The Blades were far too easy to play out from the back against last term. The front line would get bypassed far too easily. Meanwhile, Ndiaye finished the season ranking in the 97th percentile for tackles won, 78th for tackles and interceptions and 99th for dribblers challenged.

My view

It is crazy to think some people (perhaps salty) have suggested Ndiaye couldn’t cut it in the Premier League and wouldn’t have even improved us last season. His outstanding qualities: pressing, a progressive force, and a player capable of driving the team forward, are three of the main things Sheffield United lack massively throughout their poor campaign. With several Premier League teams interested in him I wouldn’t be shocked to see him being a standout player in the top flight next season.

Tags Former player Iliman Ndiaye