SUNDERLAND will attempt to sign Ki Sung-Yeung on a permanent basis this month after Swansea boss Michael Laudrup signalled that the midfielder does not have a future at the Liberty Stadium.
While Adam Johnson's hat-trick hogged the headlines as the Black Cats thrashed Fulham 4-1 to move off the foot of the Premier League table at the weekend, Ki produced another midfield master-class to reinforce his importance to Gustavo Poyet's preferred style of play.
The South Korean, who scored Sunderland's second goal shortly before half-time, would not even have been at Craven Cottage had Swansea triggered the recall clause that was inserted into his loan agreement, but the deadline passed at the start of last week with the Welsh club opting to leave the 24-year-old on Wearside.
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With Laudrup admitting “it wouldn't have helped either of us to have taken him back”, it appears as though Ki's Swans career is effectively at an end, and Sunderland officials will attempt to reach a permanent agreement this month before rival clubs get an opportunity to enter the market in the summer.
Having paid £6m to sign Ki from Celtic in 2012, Swansea would not want to lose too much of their investment. Sunderland are poised to make an initial offer of around £4m, and while Ki's current wages are higher than the Black Cats would ideally like to pay, there is a strong desire to achieve a positive resolution this month.
“I am hoping there will be a chance for us to do something,” said Poyet. “They had an opportunity to recall him, but that is finished now, so hopefully that has strengthened our hand. It was a difficult day for me at the start of the week because I was waiting all day to hear what Swansea's response would be.
“There are a couple of things that still need to be ironed out – we have to make sure of where we are and where we want to go, and the player has to have an input into that too. But it's easy to see that he's enjoying his football and making a difference.
“That's important, and the fact that Swansea didn't recall him is obviously a positive sign. It means we will definitely have him for the rest of the season, and hopefully it gives us a chance to do something more.”
Despite travelling to Wales with a lofty reputation following a successful spell at Celtic and some impressive performances at both the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Olympics, Ki failed to establish himself in Swansea's first team.
He didn't play in Poyet's first three league games as Sunderland manager either, but since being restored to the starting line-up for the 1-0 win over Manchester City, he has consistently been the Black Cats' most effective performer.
Equally comfortable in a deep-lying role or the more positive position he is currently adopting, he is clearly relishing his new lease of life in the North-East and his relationship with the Sunderland fans, which saw him run the length of the field to celebrate Saturday's goal in front of the visiting contingent in the Putney End.
“It is very important that he is happy,” said Poyet. “It meant so much for him to score, and that shows how much he cares. I think he is enjoying his new position a little bit further up the pitch, and when he plays there, he can make us play. I want players with that mentality, and I think he has been the most consistent player in terms of my way of playing.”
As well as attempting to wrap up the permanent purchase of Ki, Sunderland officials will spend this week putting the finishing touches to Santiago Vergini's move from Estudiantes.
The Argentinian defender is due to travel to England in the middle of the week, although the financial technicalities of the deal are still to be completely finalised.
“Hopefully things will move forward this week,” said Poyet. “I will be having some talks with the sporting director to make sure everything is still moving forward as we would want. We are in a good position and things should progress this week.”
Vergini might not be the only player arriving from South America before the transfer window closes as Poyet is also pursuing Argentinian goalkeeper Mariano Andujar, who is with Catania, and striker Ignacio Scocco, who is currently with Internacional.
“We know there are interested clubs like Valencia and Sunderland,” confirmed Scocco's agent, Fabian Soldini. “But we have no idea what will happen with Nacho since we depend on Inter to transfer him or accept a loan.”
There is also ongoing contact with Brighton over the future of Liam Bridcutt, who submitted a transfer request last week in an attempt to push through a move from the Amex Stadium. Bridcutt was not involved in Brighton's 1-0 win over Birmingham at the weekend, although boss Oscar Garcia claimed that was because of a groin injury rather than an unwillingness to select the midfielder.