Ben Davies makes Liverpool transfer decision as summer plan outlined
The situation could look a lot different for Ben Davies when he returns to Liverpool compared to when he signed for the club.
Back in January, Jurgen Klopp was in desperate need for defensive reinforcements with Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip all suffering from long-term injuries.
That led to the capture of Davies on an initial £500,000 deal from Preston North End.
But despite the paucity of options available to Reds boss Klopp, Davies failed to make a single appearance for the club and in August he was sent on a season-long loan to Sheffield United.
The Blades, under new manager Slavisa Jokanovic, and recently relegated back to the Championship, have long been admirers of the 26-year-old.
And, if the circumstances allow, they should be interested in signing Davies on a permanent basis next summer.
But the former Tranmere Rovers loanee has already made it clear what he wants to do - even if he has the fit-again Van Dijk, Gomez, Matip plus new boy Ibrahima Konate in his way, and even if his chances of playing for Liverpool appear slimmer than ever.
"I spoke to Ben recently," said Nathan Hemmingham, who covers Sheffield United for the Liverpool ECHO's sister website, Yorkshire Live, on a special Blood Red podcast.
"He said first and foremost he's not thinking about anything major; it's just about this season and playing again - and playing to the best of his ability and trying to get back to the player he was at Preston when Liverpool came in for him.
"Then in the summer he wants to go back to Liverpool to see if the door is open, because you don't know what happens.
"He wants to have a good pre-season with Liverpool, see where the land lies, and see if he can try and impress the manager, Jurgen Klopp.
"But if Liverpool are happy to let him leave permanently, I'm sure, providing he impresses and become the player everyone who has tracked him these past 12 months have been convinced he is, Sheffield United will be looking at that."
A lot will also depends on the Blades' finances. They did not pay a fee for a single player in the summer following the club's relegation.
Immediate promotion back to the Premier League would help but, with Jokanovic in the process of refreshing the squad and introducing a new system and style of play, they currently sit six points behind the play-offs.
Davies, however, has began to impress in his first six appearances for the club.
"Ben was a player they tried for the summer before last, but couldn't afford him, and they tried again in January, but then the decision was made for no signings, because of United's position in the table at that time," said Hemmingham.
"So they've been tracking Ben for a long, long time.
"He's settled in really well and he looks comfortable on the ball, which is good, because Jokanovic likes to roll it out from the keeper, and draw the press on, which you can imagine for the 30,000 fans at Bramall Lane, it's not what they've seen before.
"There's a few heart-in-mouth moments. But having Ben in there, who is so comfortable at receiving the ball, both under pressure and bringing it out and striding into midfield with it, is good.
"He's struggled a little bit for fitness to start with, they've had to manage him after each game, because he's gone from playing every week, to training a little bit, to training a lot, and not playing, to back to where he was at Preston.
"But I think we're approaching the period when he's looking more match sharp and match fit, and he has made a big difference to the defence, which is vulnerable, because the team is in a transition period where the manager is trying to play a different way with players who have been shaped around a previous system that was so unique (overlapping centre-backs).
"But Ben has certainly helped with his Championship experience and his ability on the ball to come in and sit alongside John Egan in a back four."