SUNDERLAND still hope to persuade Connor Wickham to commit to a new contract on Wearside after failing to reach an agreement so far over new terms.
That could mean agreeing to sell him before the end of August or risk losing him on the cheap next summer when it could come down to a tribunal as he will become a free agent.
And it emerged last night that Wickham has so far been unable to agree to a new contract - increasing the uncertainty surrounding his future. Sunderland, however, have not given up on the situation.
The England Under-21 international has caught the eye of other Premier League clubs after a fine end to last season, which earned him the player of the month award for April when he scored five goals to help keep Sunderland in the top-flight.
Southampton and Aston Villa have been strongly linked with the striker this summer, which is a huge turnaround for a young man who looked destined for a Football League move in March.
After spending time on loan at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United, he got his confidence back having struggled to convince a number of Sunderland managers he deserved a chance to lead the line.
In the end Gustavo Poyet gambled on playing him front because injuries and poor form from Jozy Altidore, Steven Fletcher and Ignacio Scocco left him with little choice.
Now Wickham, showing signs of the player who burst on to the scene at Ipswich before his £8.1m move to Sunderland in 2011, is biding his time and appears to be keeping his options open.
Sunderland are keen to add another striker rather than lose Wickham, particularly as Scocco looks certain to be returning to Argentina to join former club Newells Old Boys.
There are claims in Argentina that Newells have agreed around £2.3m to buy Scocco, after Sunderland had rejected the bid of £1.75m which would have left them owning 50 per cent of the player.
Sunderland are keen to bring in as close to the £3.2m paid to Brazilian club Internacional in January and the latest offer is likely to see something happen. Scocco is already understood to have agreed personal terms.
Poyet is desperate to find at least a couple of new strikers before the start of the season and Arsenal’s South Korean Park Chu-Young is a realistic contender to arrive.
Park has spent the last three years at Arsenal following a move from Monaco but has made just one appearance for the Gunners. He has been on loan at Celta Vigo and Watford during that time.
The 29-year-old, who has 65 caps for his country and was in the World Cup squad along with Ki Sung-Yueng, would represent a cheap option for Sunderland, who have also made an £8m bid for Fabio Borini.