SUNDERLAND head coach Gus Poyet will give fringe players Charis Mavrias and Duncan Watmore the chance to earn a place in his first-team squad next season, but Fabio Borini’s agent has reportedly poured cold water over his protracted move to the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats agreed terms on a £14m deal for the Italian striker, but the 23-year-old was part of the Liverpool squad which arrived in the USA over the weekend.
Club officials are still confident of landing Borini, who impressed during his season-long loan last term, but his agent has hinted the striker is still keen to stay at Anfield, despite the imminent arrival of Loic Remy.
“Sunderland have made a large offer of €18 million to sign him, but Fabio wants to stay [in Liverpool],” Marco de Marchi said. “His project with Liverpool started two years ago when he left Roma; he began a journey and it is a major project for him.
“He should not be judged on his first year; he was out for six months with various injuries and during the past year he took a step back by going to Sunderland and he has had an extraordinary season.
“His future? Now, after the loan, Liverpool have not told me anything. I think he will stay, he is convinced that he will play.
“Sterling, Sturridge, Lambert and now Remy? At Roma he was with Totti, Osvaldo, Lamela and Bojan. He has no fear of playing alongside anyone, and for me he can play a part within any top club.”
The Black Cats got their pre-season schedule underway with a 5-1 win over Darlington on Saturday in a game that saw Mavrias and Watmore play in unfamiliar right-back roles.
Despite adding free agents Billy Jones, Costel Pantilimon and Jordi Gomez to his squad, Poyet was forced to play some players out of position as he continues his search for reinforcements.
Jones was moved across to play at left-back, while wingers Watmore and Mavrias played a half each at right-back.
Mavrias’ future on Wearside has been the subject of speculation having made just four appearances in his first season at the Stadium of Light following a £2m move from Panathinaikos.
He was part of Sunderland’s disastrous summer recruitment drive that saw the likes of Cabral, Modibo Diakite, Valentin Roberge and David Moberg Karlsson arrive and subsequently fail to impress, but Poyet is keen to give the 20-year-old Greek international a second chance.
In Watmore’s case, the 20-year-old starred for Kevin Ball’s development side last season, before Scottish Premier League side Hibernian took him on loan during the second half of the campaign.
He was promoted to train with the first-team at the start of pre-season and it is likely both Watmore and Mavrias will be given more opportunities to shine in Sunderland’s pre-season games at Carlisle tonight and Hartlepool tomorrow, while they could also be included in the party that travels to Portugal at the end of this week.
“I would like to thank Charis (Mavrias) and Duncan (Watmore) for playing right-back, because as you know, we don’t really have many options there,” Poyet said.
“The boys were fantastic and had no problem at all to do that job for us. It’s good for the team, and great experience for them. But we need some changes because it was not easy to make those two back fours.
“But then they need to show me. You can say that the opposition was from a very low division, but we are going to play against Carlisle and Hartlepool, then it is Recreativo de Huelva.
“That will prove if they are good enough to be part of the final squad, which will probably not be named until the last day of August, like everybody suspects.”
Poyet was without Ignacio Scocco, Adam Johnson, Liam Bridcutt and Jozy Altidore on Saturday.
Scocco is close to ending a nightmare six months on Wearside, in which he made just eight appearances following a £3.3m move from Internacional in January.
Poyet revealed he considered keeping the 29-year-old, but the Argentine’s former club Newell’s Old Boys are front runners to sign the striker despite late interest from River Plate.
The Black Cats boss said: “My first idea was to keep Nacho. I knew it would be difficult for a player coming from Argentina or Brazil into the Premier League like he did.
“We were in a fight and he’s not that type of player. He needs the team to be controlling games for him to do his bit. So my idea was to keep him and put him through pre-season like everybody else. But there are options, and everything is being analysed. We will see what happens.”