Sheffield United accept they face an uphill struggle to lure Phil Jagielka back to Bramall Lane, 10 years after his move to Premier League club Everton.
Representatives acting on behalf of Chris Wilder’s side explored the possibility of re-signing the defender earlier this month.
But the disparity between top-flight wages and those on offer at the majority of Championship clubs means a move is unlikely to happen unless the player accepts a significant pay cut.
Jagielka, who is also thought to interest Stoke City, earns a reported £50,000 a week at Goodison Park where his present contract is set to expire next summer.
Although United are not thought to have withdrawn their interest completely, Wilder and his transfer negotiation team have also compiled a list of more realistic targets after pledging not to put the club’s long-term future at risk during this summer’s recruitment drive.
A new centre-half remains a priority following Ethan Ebanks-Landell’s return to Wolverhampton Wanderers with Charlton Athletic winger Ricky Holmes and Ryan Leonard, the Southend midfielder, known to have been the subject of bids in recent weeks.
Ebanks-Landell helped United lift the League One title during his season long loan in South Yorkshire but could now be surplus to requirements following Nuno Espirito Santo’s recent appointment as manager at Molineux.
Jagielka, aged 34, has made nearly 350 appearances for Everton and won 40 England caps since leaving United a decade ago. A graduate of their Steelphalt Academy youth programme, he was a member of the squad which gained promotion to the PL in 2006 before being sold after they were controversially relegated 12 months later.
Jagielka yesterday attempted to downplay speculation linking him with a emotional return to the team where he started his professional career - “I’ve heard the rumours myself, but as of yet there’s nothing in that”, he told a national radio station - but refused to dismiss the idea out of hand.
United have been allocated 200 tickets for their forthcoming development fixture against Scarborough Athletic. The game, which takes place on July 15, is the first match at the non-league club’s new stadium.