Oli McBurnie is a wanted man and Swansea City’s entire season could be defined by whether he stays or goes.
Sheffield United have been linked with the Scottish international all summer and this week finally saw the Blades make a bid.
Their £15million offer was rightly refused by the club but there’s every chance the newly promoted Premier League club will return with an increased offer before the window closes.
If reports are to be believed, Swansea value McBurnie at around £20million and if United meet the asking price it may be difficult for Swansea to refuse.
Every player has his price, especially at a club like Swansea which is working hard to balance its books, but if there’s one player Swansea need to fight to keep it’s McBurnie.
Put simply he is probably Swansea’s most important player and would definitely be the toughest to replace.
McBurnie scored 22 league goals last season and a further two in the FA Cup, making him the first Swansea City player to score more than 20 league goals in a single season since Jason Scotland in 2008/09.
He scored a goal every two games last season and had a similar ratio while on loan the previous season at Barnsley. To score roughly once every two games in a relegation-battling side shows what a potent finisher McBurnie really is and also confirms last season’s exploits with Swansea were anything but a one-off.
McBurnie is one of the Championship’s most gifted goal-scorers but his contribution goes far beyond sticking the ball in the net.
McBurnie is a tireless worker who is more than happy to track back and get involved in build-ups. His link-up play was key to Swansea’s style last season and he was instrumental in building attacks as well as finishing them off. Only three out and out strikers in the entire division made more passes per game than McBurnie during the last campaign.
In fact there were periods last season when Swansea fans questioned whether he was too unselfish and spent too much of his time in deeper positions, helping his team-mates rather than hanging around the box, waiting for tap-ins.
The term “good feet for a big” man seems out-dated these days when players of all shapes and sizes are expected to be comfortable with the ball at their feet, but in McBurnie’s case it’s particularly true. Few players over six feet tall completed as many dribbles as he did last season.
McBurnie is a natural goal-scorer and an industrious team-player but on top of all this, he is one of the biggest personalities at the club.
McBurnie was a star for the under-23 team for years and was the first of the current crop of youngsters to be given a chance in the first team. He was in many ways a trailblazer for other members of that fantastic under-23 side and continues to be a formidable presence in the changing room.
He is both a joker and a leader, combining a carefree love of life with a burning desire to compete and win. He is one of the squad’s most tenacious battlers and leads by example on the pitch. Character is vital in football and McBurnie oozes it.
McBurnie must be tempted by the top flight’s hypnotic allure, even if he’s enjoying life at Swansea. But he is of such importance to the club that Swansea have to do all they can to keep him.
The Swans would not just lose their top goal-scorer if McBurnie departs, they’d lose a key figure in the current squad both on and off the pitch.
It goes without saying that 20 goal a season strikers do not grow on trees and they certainly don’t come cheap.
If Swansea end up selling McBurnie they will have less than three weeks to find a permanent replacement. Even with a big cash influx it’s not clear how much of that money would be diverted to the transfer kitty and how much would be used to plug the shrinking financial black hole left after Premier League relegation.
If McBurnie stays then Swansea will fancy their chances of building on last year’s success and possibly challenging for the play-offs but if he goes his firepower will be extremely difficult to replace. It could have an enormous impact on where in the table Swansea are likely to compete.
Swansea have been more than happy to sell pretty much all their players over recent seasons due to their financial predicament but with McBurnie they have to change the record and stand firm. This is not a player they want to lose, even for £20million.