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Sunderland confident of making N'Diaye their first January signing
SUNDERLAND are hoping to make France Under-21 international Alfred N'Diaye their first January signing within the next 48 hours.
Black Cats officials have agreed a fee of around £3m with their counterparts at Turkish club Bursaspor and are ready to begin personal talks with N'Diaye and his representatives.
The 22-year-old midfielder is due to fly into the North-East later today, with Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill confident a deal will be concluded before the weekend.
Bursaspor rejected the Black Cats' initial offer, which is understood to have been around £2m, but a second round of talks resulted in a breakthrough.
N'Diaye, who began his senior career with French club Nancy, has made his name as a muscular defensive midfielder.
However, he can also play at centre-half, and with John O'Shea, Carlos Cuellar and Wes Brown all on the injured list, his versatility was a key factor behind O'Neill's willingness to pursue him so vigorously.
He will have to pass a medical as well as agreeing personal terms, but there is a chance he could be available for Saturday's Premier League home game with West Ham.
His arrival would represent a welcome boost for O'Neill, who has made no secret of his desire to bolster his squad during this month's transfer window.
Sunderland have lacked cover in both defence and midfield this season, and N'Diaye would increase O'Neill's options in both areas of the field in the second half of the campaign.
The Frenchman might not be the only defensively-minded player moving to the Stadium of Light this month as O'Neill is also pursuing Hungary international Roland Juhasz.
The Anderlecht centre-half is set to leave his Belgian employers this month, and Sunderland officials have made a formal inquiry about his potential availability.
At this stage, the Wearsiders would prefer a loan deal with a view to a permanent signing in the summer, something Anderlecht are not especially keen on.
To further complicate matters, Ukrainian side Dnipro have also made contact with the Anderlecht hierarchy to express their willingness to pay a cash fee.
However, Juhasz has expressed a desire to move to the Premier League and is aware of Sunderland's interest.
"I'd like to play in Western Europe and of course Sunderland and the Premier League attracts me very much," said Juhasz, who will turn 30 in the summer. "But I wouldn't say no to Dnipro."
Sunderland have also made contact with Everton defender Sylvain Distin, who is due to become a free agent in the summer.
O'Neill is a long-standing admirer of the 35-year-old, and is believed to be willing to offer a two-year deal.
Distin is free to talk to prospective employers, and QPR boss Harry Redknapp has also expressed an interest.
However, the former Newcastle defender would prefer to remain with Everton and is hopeful of securing a new contract at Goodison Park later this month.
As well as targeting new signings, O'Neill has also been fielding calls about a number of his own players, with goalkeeper Keiren Westwood the subject of particularly strong interest.
Westwood's only two senior appearances this season came in the Capital One Cup, and the Republic of Ireland international is desperate to play regular first-team football in the second half of the campaign in order to protect his position as his country's number one.
Hull City and Nottingham Forest are both keen to sign Westwood on a temporary basis, but O'Neill insists the 27-year-old will be going nowhere this month.
England junior international Jordan Pickford is Sunderland's only other alternative to Simon Mignolet, and O'Neill does not feel the youngster is ready for top-flight football should anything happen to the Black Cats' established number one.
"Keiren obviously wants to play some games," said the Sunderland boss. "There is talk about Shay (Given) coming back for Ireland and of course Keiren wants to play.
"I have got the two goalkeepers in Simon and Keiren and my situation is that I have a very good keeper in reserve. It is hard to replace Simon at the moment because he is playing exceptionally well.
"I don't know about Hull but other teams have shown an interest through his agent. I am very reluctant because we don't have the back-up.
"A manager did ask me about him a few days ago - manager to manager, which is very unusual these days! But I just couldn't do anything."
* Sunderland's FA Cup third-round replay with Bolton has been confirmed for Tuesday, January 15 (7.45pm).
Tickets are on sale now, priced £15 for adults and £5 for under-16s and over-65s. Black Cats Bar seats are priced £35.
Supporters enrolled in the Home Cup Payment Scheme will have their season cards automatically enabled, while season card holders have until 5pm on Thursday, January 10 to purchase their seat.