SUNDERLAND’S pursuit of Ashley Williams is at an end after the centre-half penned an improved four-year deal with Swansea City.
The Black Cats identified Williams as one of their leading defensive targets at the start of the summer, having received indications that he was ready to leave the Liberty Stadium.
An initial offer of £4m was turned down, but Sunderland officials are understood to have had further discussions with their counterparts at the Swans.
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At the same time, however, Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins continued to talk terms with Williams and his representative, Jamie Moralee, in an attempt to hold on to one of his squad’s key defenders.
Those talks reached a successful resolution yesterday, with 29-year-old Williams agreeing a new contract that commits him to South Wales until 2018.
“I’m delighted to sign a new contract at Swansea City,” said the centre-half. “I’ve enjoyed fantastic success at this club and I want to keep helping Swansea City progress.”
The noises coming out of the Liberty Stadium always suggested there was a high degree of confidence that Williams would eventually commit himself to Swansea, hence the willingness to rebuff a number of approaches from Sunderland.
Some will claim that the Black Cats were cynically used to improve the terms of the defender’s new deal, but Sunderland boss Gustavo Poyet is understood to have regarded Williams as a target worth pursuing, even if there was always a high chance of being unable to pull off a transfer.
The Sunderland boss will continue to target defensive reinforcements as he regards his current squad as being too light in that area.
Billy Jones has arrived to replace Phil Bardsley, who joined Stoke City as a free agent, but Marcos Alonso and Santiago Vergini have both left Wearside following the end of their loan moves. Carlos Cuellar has also left after his contract expired.
Alonso and Vergini could yet return, with discussions over a permanent deal for both players ongoing, but Poyet is keen to recruit at least one extra defender as he looks to improve a squad that almost slipped into the Championship last season.
Meanwhile, Jozy Altidore has been granted an extra two weeks in which to recover from his World Cup exertions with the United States.
Altidore, who damaged his hamstring in the USA’s opening group game in Brazil and was sidelined for their following three fixtures, will not be present when Sunderland’s players reconvene for the first full day of pre-season training on Monday.
The striker should, however, be available for the Black Cats’ opening pre-season friendly against Darlington at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park on Saturday, July 19.