Eight months ago, he was being paraded in front of the media after signing a new and improved contract.
But today, only 36 weeks later, Sheffield United are preparing to lose David Brooks after AFC Bournemouth lodged a bid, believed to be worth up to £15m, for the Wales international.
So what has changed? Why is the Championship club, which a matter of days ago insisted its most sought-after players were not for sale, preparing to concede defeat in the battle to keep him at Bramall Lane. The answer is likely to be cold hard cash and the lure of Premier League football. A combination Brooks, capped three times by his country, will understandably have found almost impossible to resist.
Although United publicly said all the right things about keeping the 20-year-old when Eddie Howe’s interest emerged, privately they feared the writing was on the wall the minute he changed agents. Despite acknowledging Brooks’ right to choose his representatives, joining the same talent stable as Ryan Sessegnon, Wilfried Zaha and England’s Harry Kane made United’s decision-makers suspect a bid from the top-flight was not far away. From that moment on, even though they will not admit it, United’s stance changed. Rather than trying to retain the youngster, their main objective became securing the best possible price for his services.
Time will tell whether the £15m Bournemouth are expected to pay for Brooks represents good value. The lions’ share of that will received up front with, according to sources in Dorset, a further £3m spread over the course of the deal. Barring any unforeseen complications, that is expected to ratified shortly after Howe’s employers revised the £10m offer they made, via an intermediary, in December.
United responded to that approach by informing officials at the Vitality Stadium they had no intention of doing business. But a number of factors eventually forced them to the negotiating table. Wilder, who enjoys a good relationship with Brooks after handing him his EFL debut two seasons ago, will almost certainly have canvassed the attacker’s opinion on Bournemouth’s interest. If so, it seems certain he failed to secure a pledge of absolute loyalty. Which, given the fact Brooks is likely to become a millionaire on the south coast, would surprise no one. Faced with the prospect of making him the highest paid member of their squad, even though he has made less than 40 first team appearances, United relented. Begrudgingly but relieved his contractual situation had gone some way towards protecting their investment.
Wilder must now hope he receives all, or at least a substantial portion, of Brooks’ fee to reinvest in his squad. That will also decide, given the manager’s track record of success in the transfer market, if this proves a sensible piece of business. Or simply disappointing news.