SUNDERLAND'S summer recruitment drive is set to continue with the purchase of Lazio full-back Luis Pedro Cavanda.
The Black Cats last night completed their fourth signing of the summer as French midfielder El-Hadji Ba signed a three-year deal, with Le Havre due to receive around £300,000 in compensation for his services.
Director of football Roberto De Fanti has held a series of talks with Lazio officials in an attempt to agree a price for Cavanda, a 22-year-old right-back who is regarded as a direct replacement for Phil Bardsley.
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Those talks remain ongoing, although discussions are also understood to have taken place with Cavanda and his representatives as Sunderland continue to target the Italian market.
Cavanda's position was first discussed when De Fanti approached Lazio about Modibo Diakite, who has subsequently moved to Wearside from Rome.
The Angola-born Belgium under-21 international is about to enter the final year of his contract with Lazio, and his refusal to sign a new deal has resulted in his employers looking to sell him this summer.
Cavanda made his Lazio debut in 2009, but only established himself in the club's first team at the start of last season.
He performed creditably in the first half of the campaign, but his contractual wrangles eventually led to him being dropped in the latter stages of the season.
Cavanda has subsequently threatened to go to court to have his contract annulled, and the matter will be settled by arbitration unless an agreement can be reached.
Lazio are keen to avoid legal interference, but having previously quoted a 5m Euros fee, it remains to be seen whether the Serie A side are willing to accept a significantly reduced fee in order to push through a deal.
Sunderland officials are believed to value Cavanda at around 3m Euros (£2.55m) and are hoping the ongoing dispute will help strengthen their hand in the negotiating process.
Sources in Italy claim the two parties have been discussing a compromise fee of around 4m Euros, but an agreement has not yet been reached.
Cavanda, who was born in Angola but holds Belgian dual nationality after moving to the country at a young age, is an attacking full-back who has previously spent time on loan at Torino and Bari.
He can also play at left-back, but is primarily regarded as a right-sided defender, which would make him an ideal replacement for Bardsley, who has been told to seek alternative employment following his admonishment for a late-night jaunt to a casino in the final week of the season.
Craig Gardner spent much of last season at right-back, but Di Canio regards the Midlander as more of a midfielder and is reluctant to give him a regular role in the back four.
Cavanda is one of a number of Italian targets currently being pursued, with De Fanti also in talks with Siena forward Alessandro Rosina and Livorno striker Paulinho.
Ba is the first signing of the Paolo Di Canio era to involve a financial outlay, with the French media last night reporting that a deal had been concluded.
The 20-year-old midfielder, who is a France under-20 international, joins Cabral, Valentin Roberge and Diakite, who will all join as free agents later this summer.