SUNDERLAND have completed the loan signing of centre-half Santiago Vergini until the end of the season, with the Argentinian defender expected to join permanently provided the Black Cats remain in the Premier League.
Vergini travelled to England at the end of last week to finalise his move from Estudiantes, although it has subsequently emerged that he was only on loan at the Argentinian club from his Uruguayan parent club, Atletico Fenix.
The 25-year-old’s complicated ownership arrangement resulted in a lengthy negotiating process, but Sunderland have finally completed a deal that will see Vergini spend the second half of the season on Wearside.
His long-term future will be discussed in the summer, with the fate of the Black Cats’ survival bid likely to be a key factor in the talks.
Having begun his career in Paraguay, Vergini, who is a full Argentinian international, played for Newell’s Old Boys before joining Estudiantes last summer.
He joins Marcos Alonso as Sunderland’s second loan signing this month, and the club are also monitoring Bulgarian goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov as they look to secure cover for the injured Keiren Westwood.
Westwood recently underwent shoulder surgery, and while the problem is not believed to be as serious as first feared, the Irishman is unlikely to be available for at least another couple of months.
That only leaves the untried Jordan Pickford and Joel Dixon as alternatives to Vito Mannone, with Gustavo Poyet keen to sign a more experienced shot-stopper before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.
Argentinian Mariano Andujar remains of considerable interest, but members of Sunderland’s scouting team have also been compiling information on Mihaylov in recent weeks.
The 25-year-old joined Italian side Hellas Verona from FC Twente in the summer, but has been restricted to a solitary appearance in the Coppa Italia.
He is expected to move on again this month, and Sunderland could look to set up a loan deal until the end of the season in order to cover for Westwood’s absence.
As well as looking to sign players, Poyet is also expected to move on more of his fringe performers this month, and he will contact Hull boss Steve Bruce to discuss Danny Graham’s future at the KC Stadium.
Graham joined Hull on a season-long loan last summer, but with the Tigers having signed Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long this month, the North-Easterner’s first-team chances are likely to be limited.
His loan can be terminated if all parties agree, a move that would then enable Sunderland to move him on permanently.
Danny Graham is on loan at Hull
Bolton Wanderers have been in touch to register their interest, although they would prefer a loan deal of their own as they have already been priced out of a move for Cardiff’s Joe Mason. Nottingham Forest, meanwhile, have been linked with Connor Wickham, who is currently on loan at Sheffield Wednesday.
Poyet will finalise his starting line-up for tomorrow’s Capital One Cup semi-final second leg with Manchester United this morning, with striker Steven Fletcher an injury doubt. The Scotsman is struggling with an Achilles injury, and was restricted to an 18-minute substitute appearance at the weekend.
“We were trying not to play him at all because he had a problem, a little injury,” said Poyet. “We would not have involved him if we had been doing well.
“I asked him to take a risk for him and for his team-mates, and credit to him, he did. It’s a tricky injury, and he could have made it worse, but he was happy in his warm up and he gave us a very good 20 minutes.”