Nigeria international calls on Sunderland to step up their interest

The Northern Echo: MOVING ON: Michael Babatunde claims Sunderland are interested in signing him - and is hoping the Black Cats step up their pursuit MOVING ON: Michael Babatunde claims Sunderland are interested in signing him - and is hoping the Black Cats step up their pursuit

NIGERIA international Michael Babatunde has urged Sunderland to follow up their initial interest in taking him to the Stadium of Light.

Babatunde, a 21-year-old midfielder who made two appearances in the World Cup group phase before breaking his wrist in his country’s final game against Argentina, claims Sunderland have made contact to broach the possibility of a move to Wearside.

The Nigerian currently plays with Ukrainian side Volyn Lutsk, but has been told he can move on this summer provided an acceptable fee can be agreed.

He has been the subject of interest from a number of European sides, with Besiktas and Fenerbahce also understood to have spoken to his representatives in an attempt to engineer a transfer.

However, he would prefer to move to the Premier League and is hoping Sunderland intensify their efforts to sign him.

The Black Cats are on the look out for a new midfielder having released both Jack Colback and Craig Gardner since the end of last season, but are struggling to pull off a deal for Cardiff City’s Jordon Mutch.

“I have received an offer from several clubs, but the one from Sunderland is the one that interests me,” said Babatunde. “I have received several offers from different places, but I’m interested in the one from Sunderland.

“They have contacted my agent and we will see how it goes from there. There are about two offers from clubs in Turkey as well, which are both under consideration and will be discussed at the right time.

“I’m probably going to leave Volyn. We have to discuss the offers, but most likely I will be leaving this summer.”

Sunderland have added Jordi Gomez to their midfield ranks since the end of last season, and also persuaded Seb Larsson to sign a new three-year contract despite interest from elsewhere.

Larsson is the only one of Sunderland’s out-of-contract players to have re-signed for the club, and manager Gustavo Poyet is delighted to have retained the services of the reliable 29-year-old.

“It was a difficult one because when we started negotiations with a couple of players and it didn’t work out, we stopped and made a decision not to talk to anyone until we knew where we finished,” said Poyet.

“That decision could create a doubt for players of ‘Maybe they don’t want me’, but it wasn’t anything like that. It was a matter of waiting and making a decision at the end.

“When we knew there was a possibility of Seb staying, we really pushed it. It was very important to have a quick chat and quick agreement on the contract, and get him signed.

“He was so important during the season, and especially at the end, that we were really desperate to have Seb on board with us.”

Meanwhile, Diego Poyet is already counting down the days until West Ham United’s first meeting with Sunderland on December 13.

Poyet signed a four-year deal with the Hammers on Tuesday following the end of his previous contract at Charlton, and cannot wait to travel to Wearside to take on his father’s side for the first time.

“I’ll be looking out for the Sunderland game,” said Diego. “I watched West Ham play them towards the end of last season. West Ham won, and I’m not sure my dad was too happy about it.

“They got there in the end – after that game it looked tough for them, but they turned it around, which was great for them and for him.”

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