Doncaster Rovers are ready to make leading scorer Billy Sharp the highest paid player in the club’s history in a bid to make him stay at the Keepmoat.
Chairman John Ryan and deputy chairman Dick Watson, who helped fund the club-record £1.15m paid out to Sheffield United for the 25 year-old 18 months ago, are again prepared to dig deep.
They have put together a club-record package, which would see Sharp remain at the club until the end of the 2013-14 campaign, were he to sign it.
Rovers have agreed a fee to sell the striker to Leicester City but manager Dean Saunders spoke to the player yesterday and tried to persuade him to stay.”
Saunders said: “I told the directors that I wanted to try and keep him and they are trying to help me but even so we know that other clubs will be able to offer him more than we can afford .
“I will keep the directors informed as to what was said but I don’t think Billy is going to rush into a decision; I think he’s going to wait and see what happens.”
Sharp has also attracted interest in recent months from Ipswich and Southampton, both of whom have offered Rovers more money, and he has also been linked with Premier League Wigan and Fulham - though neither club have confirmed media reports.
Well placed to challenge for the Championship Golden Boot award, despite missing six games due to injury, after scoring 10 goals in 16 starts, Sharp was left out of Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie against Notts County at the Keepmoat Stadium, which Rovers lost 2-0, after Championship rivals Leicester had agreed to meet the buy-out clause in his contract believed to be around £1.85m.
The Foxes are reportedly prepared to offer Sharp a £200,000 signing on fee and nearly £28,000 a week - a figure which would rise substantially were the club to reach the top flight.
Rovers are thought to value Sharp, who has been the club’s top scorer for the last two seasons, at around £3m. But even if a club matched their valuation it is believed that they would prefer to keep hold of a player who they feel offers them their best hope of hanging on to their treasuredChampionship status.
Their determination to try and hold on to Sharp, who has made no secret of the fact that he wants to test himself in the top flight, was strengthened after they drew a blank against the Magpies.
“We feel that we can’t afford to let him go without a fight,” said Saunders.
Saunders says he wants Sharp to stay to not only help in the battle against relegation this season, but also help Rovers mount a promotion challenge next season.
Rovers have released Northern Ireland midfielder Dean Shiels.
Shiels has been on a six-month loan at Kilmarnock, who are managed by dad Kenny, and has been in excellent form. He was due back at the Keepmoat Stadium next Monday, but intimated that he wished to remain at the Scottish League club, who didn’t have the money to bid for him: “We’ve agreed to cancel his contract so he can stay up there,” said Saunders.
Saunders, meanwhile, has still not given up hope of bringing left-back Herita Ilunga back to the club following his return to Upton Park last week: “We need a left-back and I’m trying to work out a deal,” he said.
Former Owls’ left-back Tommy Spurr, who cost the club £200,000 in the summer, has been out on the field training this week following his double hernia operation last year.