Sander Berge rejected an opportunity to join Sheffield United last summer, but after having a change of heart, he left Genk for the Blades in January.

In the same window, the Norway international’s former teammate, Mbwana Ally Samatta, also arrived in the Premier League as Aston Villa acquired his services.

Dean Smith’s side signed the Tanzanian after losing Wesley Moraes for the rest of the season due to injury.

Since the start of the last summer, Genk have lost several of their star players, and their technical director Dimitri De Condé has admitted he had wanted to build a squad around Berge.

However, poor results in domestic and European competitions made it difficult for Genk to keep Berge and Samatta from the clutches of Sheffield United and Aston Villa respectively.

De Condé explained these details when talking about the biggest problem he faced at Genk.

“The heart [of the team] disappeared, which is bad for the balance in a team. After the sales of Trossard, Pozuelo and Malinovskyi, we wanted to build a new midfield around Berge and Heynen,” De Condé told Het Belang van Limburg.

“Heynen’s injury was a big blow….Just like Vukovic, who played an important role in the field and in the dressing room. I also hoped that Berge and Samatta would finish the season with us. 

“However, because we had a difficult start and our new team were too weak for the Champions League – which unfortunately applies to every Belgian club – and they were offers from the Premier League.”

“Their departure was inevitable. No club can accommodate such an exodus of support pillars.”