GUSTAVO POYET has ignored speculation about his future by instructing Sunderland to thrash out a permanent deal for Argentine defender Santiago Vergini.
West Ham United are understood to have placed Poyet high on on a list of possible contenders to replace Sam Allardyce should the former Bolton boss leave Upton Park this month.
Allardyce has been told he will not learn his fate until May 23 despite hoping there would have been news on his future when he went to co-owner David Sullivan's house for a board meeting yesterday.
Poyet insists he is staying at the Stadium of Light, but Sunderland fans will hope he is not faced with the option of returning south over the next few months.
And one of the issues facing the Sunderland manager is where Vergini will be playing his football in August.
Vergini is on the look-out for a new club, with his parent club Atletico Fenix not keen to have him back having allowed him to join Estudiantes de La Plata last summer on a season-long loan. The Black Cats are in pole position to land him.
The 25-year-old was keen to prove he can handle the English top-flight and, having overcome a nervy and unconvincing start, he has held down his first team shirt during Sunderland’s good run of form which ultimately kept them up.
Signed as a centre-back, Vergini actually looked out of his depth initially when he first started to experience life in the Premier League.
However, since switching to right-back in the 2-2 draw at Manchester City on April 16, he has shown his quality and versatility in helping to prevent Sunderland from falling in to the Championship.
Poyet, who has gone on a break and is hoping to hear of progress on his return, said: “Vergini pleases me a lot for different reasons. Firstly because I brought him here but also because I know him as a person and a player and I know how important it was for him to succeed in England.
“He was playing out of position so it is even more impressive what he has done. He deserves it, he's a terrific lad and it will be nice to sit down after we've finished the season and have a good chat with him.”
Question marks were hanging over the decision to recruit Vergini in January when he turned in error-strewn displays, including one at Liverpool when he was the weak link in a five-man defence.
He has laid such concerns to rest, though. Poyet said: “If you know the player and how much he is willing to play, you want to give him that opportunity.
“Everything came at the same time for us - Phil (Bardsley) was suspended, Ondrej Celustka was injured and Craig Gardner was ill, so he was the only option as a right-back. I saw him two or three times there so gave him the opportunity.
“It was almost unfair on him because if he plays badly there, it might kill him. He didn't and you have to give him an incredible amount of credit. Technically he was the best player at Old Trafford when we defeated Manchester United (on May 3), which was outstanding.”
As part of the arrangement with Estudiantes, where he was on loan, Sunderland also had to agree a loan deal with his parent club, Atletico Fenix, which included scope for a more permanent arrangement.
Sunderland have the option of signing him again, with Fenix not focused on keeping him in Uruguay, so the decision rests with Poyet and new sporting director, Lee Congerton.
Vergini began his career in Paraguay with Olimpia before heading to Italy to play for Verona in 2011. He has also played for Newell’s Old Boys.
Poyet is keen to keep the majority of his first team squad together over the summer, meaning offering new contracts to free agents such as Jack Colback – who has 11 clubs chasing his signature including Newcastle United and West Ham United.
Italian forward Emanuele Giaccherini has indicated a desire to stay and prove himself at Sunderland after a frustrating first campaign in the Premier League.
The £8.7m buy from Juventus, left out of his country’s World Cup squad yesterday along with Fabio Borini, said: “I want to stay and do even better with the experience I have accumulated.
“I still have three years of my contract. I’m fine here but I do not know what will happen. I will speak with Poyet and we will see.”
Sunderland’s American striker Jozy Altidore, meanwhile, has been named in the USA’s provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup. Jurgen Klinsmann’s final 23-man pool will be named before June 2.