SUNDERLAND will complete the £4m capture of Argentinian striker Ignacio Scocco this week, and are set to use Connor Wickham as a makeweight in a proposed deal for Brighton duo Liam Bridcutt and Will Buckley.
Scocco is due to travel to England in the next 24 hours after Internacional accepted the Black Cats’ most recent offer for the 28-year-old, who made his full Argentinian debut against Brazil in 2012.
Sunderland will pay around £4m for the striker, with the fee staggered in a series of instalments, although £1.5m of the money will go straight to Newell’s Old Boys, who Scocco left in the summer.
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TYING UP DEALS: Sunderland boss Gus Poyet is set for a busy end to the week
The forward is expected to sign a two-and-a-half year deal at the Stadium of Light, and will compete with Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore for the right to lead the Black Cats attack in the second half of the season.
“The offer submitted was accepted by Inter,” said Scocco’s agent, Fabian Soldini. “The transfer is not yet complete as it is necessary to see the guarantees and payment methods, but it is at about 80 per cent.”
Cardiff City made contact with Internacional in a late attempt to scupper the deal, but Scocco expressed a preference for a move to Sunderland and should complete a medical as soon as he arrives at the Academy of Light.
He has been Gustavo Poyet’s main attacking target throughout the window, and his anticipated arrival represents a significant success for the Sunderland boss.
Liam Bridcutt has also been on Poyet’s wanted list ever since his appointment in October, and Wickham’s early recall from a loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday is related to the Uruguayan’s pursuit of the Brighton midfielder.
Wickham was due to play the final game of his loan spell at Hillsborough this evening, and Sheffield Wednesday officials had been hoping to set up another deal for the second half of the season.
However, Brighton are looking for a new striker after selling Ashley Barnes to Burnley, and Wickham will be offered as a potential sweetener in a deal that could see both Buckley and Bridcutt heading to the North-East.
The logistics of the deal are still to be ironed out, as the two clubs’ valuations of the players involved are understood to differ, but there is growing confidence on Wearside that Bridcutt at least will be a Sunderland player come Friday night.
Whether the same is true of Modibo Diakite remains to be seen, with the defender’s agent claiming he has been the subject of interest from Italian sides Parma and Chievo Verona.
As well as looking to tie up transfer deals ahead of this week’s deadline, Sunderland officials are also trying to make headway with their transfer negotiations with some of the players who are due to become free agents at the end of the season.
The likes of Keiren Westwood, Phil Bardsley, Jack Colback, Craig Gardner and Seb Larsson are in the final six months of their deals, but while Poyet would ideally like to keep some at the Stadium of Light, it will be hard to resolve anything until it becomes clear what league Sunderland are playing in next season.
Talks with Colback’s representatives are believed to be the most advanced, but discussions remain difficult with the Black Cats still struggling in the bottom three.
“We started negotiations (with Colback) a few weeks ago now,” said Poyet. “The situation with the negotiations has changed a little bit because there’s another person in charge now (with Roberto De Fanti having been dismissed).
“It’s important not to be too aggressive in terms of the contract because of the position we’re in, and of course you need to be realistic. There are a few you need to try and sort it out with.
“We’re trying to manage it individually, and the players are the same. They’ll be saying, ‘Let’s wait and see where we finish’. It works both ways.”
Little more than three months ago, the chances of Bardsley securing a new deal seemed extremely remote. However, the 28-year-old has been reborn under Poyet, and a new contract is no longer out of the question.
“His story is incredible,” said the Sunderland boss. “It’s already the story of the season. We say to him every now and again, ‘You were in the other side, over there (training with the kids)’. Now he’s scoring against Manchester United and being desperate to take a penalty.
“It has been hard for him. He had a contract here and was earning his money, but you want to be part of things and be on the pitch.
“We haven’t (spoken about a new contract), but I think we’ll try. He knows that we’re going to start talking, but it’s depending on everything. They know that.”
* Sunderland’s trip to Liverpool has been selected for live television coverage and will now take place on Monday, March 10 (8pm). The home game with West Ham United has also been moved, and is now scheduled for Monday, March 31 (8pm).