SUNDERLAND’S attempts to retain Seb Larsson have been dealt a considerable blow after Napoli also signalled their interest in the midfielder.

Larsson is one of the eight senior Black Cats players who are due to become free agents next month, but Gustavo Poyet has informed him that he would like to keep him at the Stadium of Light.

The Sunderland head coach discussed a potential new deal with Larsson and his representatives towards the end of last season, but as yet, nothing has been signed.

Loading article content

The 28-year-old is keen to keep his options open, with Napoli having flagged up their desire to talk terms.

Napoli boss Rafael Benitez is understood to have included Larsson’s name on a list of potential transfer targets that he submitted to his club’s board last week.

Larsson’s wages would not be a problem to the Italian side, who have qualified for next season’s Champions League, and the chance to play in Europe’s leading competition would obviously be of considerable interest to a player who has not been involved at that level since leaving Arsenal in 2006.

The midfielder played a crucial role in Sunderland’s successful survival push in the final month of last season, and Poyet does not want to lose one of his most experienced players.

Whether sporting director Lee Congerton can persuade Larsson to remain on Wearside in the face of Napoli’s interest, however, remains to be seen.

Poyet’s own position should become clearer this week as he is due to return from a family break for another round of talks with owner Ellis Short and chief executive Margaret Byrne.

The Sunderland boss, who only has one year of his current deal remaining, is seeking assurances about his level of input into transfer discussions, the funds that will be available to spend this summer and changes to the backroom structure that he feels are required.

An initial round of talks prior to the final game of the season was successful, and it is hoped this week’s discussions will finally draw a line under speculation linking Poyet with a move away from the North-East.

However, the waters could be muddied again if West Ham were to dismiss Sam Allardyce this week, as Poyet has long been regarded as a likely replacement for the current Hammers boss.