SOUTHAMPTON are hoping to trump Sunderland to the capture of goalkeeper Oscar Ustari, with Italian giants Lazio also interested in the 27-year-old.
Ustari spent the second half of last season at the Stadium of Light on a short-term contract, with his three senior appearances coming in the FA Cup.
In the absence of Keiren Westwood, who has been released at the end of his deal, Gustavo Poyet would like to re-sign the Argentinian in order to provide cover for Vito Mannone.
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However, Ustari does not want to move somewhere where his first-team prospects will remain severely limited, and Southampton officials are hoping the possibility of more senior action on the south coast will persuade him to move to St Mary’s.
While Artur Boruc is firmly established as Southampton’s number one, the Pole is 34 now and Mauricio Pochettino would like to provide greater competition next season.
Paulo Gazzaniga has proved something of a disappointment in the last two seasons, and a senior Southampton delegation is due to meet with Ustari’s representatives before the weekend to outline their plans.
Sunderland head coach Gustavo Poyet spoke briefly with Ustari before the final game of the season, but at this stage, there is not believed to have been a formal offer of a contract from the Wearsiders.
Lazio’s interest is a further complication, although the Serie A side will not make a move until they have resolved the future of their own goalkeeper, Fernando Marchetti.
While Ustari was a peripheral figure in the final month of the season, Connor Wickham assumed centre stage as Sunderland pulled off a dramatic survival bid to retain their Premier League status.
The striker scored five goals in three games against Manchester City, Chelsea and Cardiff, and claims he might have been able to force his way into Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the World Cup finals had he not spent so much of the campaign out of the first-team picture with the Black Cats.
“There’s part of me that thinks, ‘Yes, that could have been me going to Brazil’,” said Wickham. “Maybe if I had a whole season of playing in the Premier League then maybe it could have been different. But that wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
“I’ll have a good summer now, rest and work hard for next season. There are tournaments every couple of years and I want to get in the England set-up as soon as possible. My main aim will be to play at Euro 2016.
“Obviously, the next year will be vital for me. I’ve got in the Sunderland team now, but I need to make sure I’m in it every single week and really push on and prove to people that it wasn’t just luck, it’s something I’m good at and I’m no flash in the pan.”
Meanwhile, Swansea City have become the latest Premier League club to express an interest in Jack Colback, who is due to become a free agent next month. Sunderland want to re-sign the midfielder, but Newcastle United, West Ham United and Everton have also been in touch with his representatives.