SANTIAGO VERGINI looks set to become Sunderland’s next signing after progress was made on a deal to bring the defender back to the Stadium of Light.
The Atletico Fenix centre-back, who is capable of playing full-back, has been one of Gustavo Poyet’s priority transfer targets this summer along with Fabio Borini and Marcos Alonso.
And while deals for Borini and Alonso have taken longer than anticipated to conclude, Vergini looks set to return to Wearside on a permanent basis following his successful loan last season.
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The 25-year-old, who spent part of last season on loan at Estudiantes, impressed towards the end of his short spell at Sunderland after a less than confident start to his first stint in English football.
Poyet, speaking after last night’s friendly defeat to CD Nacional in the Algarve, was not willing to confirm that a deal is imminent, but did admit he was a target.
He said: “We know Santi well and he was always one of the first choices. It was him Marcos and Fabio who were close last week. When you know a player well, you know what he is going to add to the group.”
Sunderland’s sporting director Lee Congerton is working hard behind the scenes to try to do more deals, with plenty of discussions taking place in an attempt to get something sorted.
But despite claims yesterday from sources close to Chelsea, Poyet claimed there is no deal in place for Chelsea’s Ghanaian winger Christian Atsu. When asked if he was due to arrive on Wearside, the Sunderland head coach simply said: “No.”
Two different names to be floating around yesterday were Lazio’s Luis Pedro Cavanda and Norwich’s Alex Tettey. Poyet is aware of them both but, despite being offered the former, was unaware of any interest Sunderland have in either player.
“I need to be fair with the lads, after I heard the name (Cavanda) this morning I watched a few games of him (on DVD),” said Poyet. “The first time I have seen him properly was today. Maybe there is something I don’t know or the answer is no.”
With progress as slow has it has been on the transfer front, Sunderland still hope to get things done and Poyet was satisfied to report that there should be no lasting problem for either Lee Cattermole or Billy Jones to be worried about.
Both players had to be withdrawn from last night’s 1-0 defeat at the Estadio Municipal de Albufeira with slight injuries and anything serious would have further reduced the manager’s options before this Saturday’s game with Vitoria Setubal.
“Lee got a stamp on his ankle and twisted it a little,” said Poyet. “We put some strapping on it at half-time and it got worse and worse. It’s not really a worry. Billy has had a worry in the last few days with tight legs, so 45 minutes was enough for him. That brings a problem to pick a full-back.”
Poyet sent his development squad back to Sunderland after Tuesday night’s game with Recreativo de Huelva along with Seb Larsson, whose wife is expecting a baby. Striker Jozy Altidore did not figure either last night while he recovers from the hamstring problem picked up at the World Cup for America.
But the Sunderland boss was satisfied with the majority of his team’s display, despite losing for the first time during pre-season.
He said: “When you are a team who tries to control the game in the way we did in the first half you need that extra bit in the final third to open it up. The players in the first half did their best, the movement and passing on a difficult pitch was great.
“I was delighted at half-time. I knew it would be difficult to maintain that level in the first half. But all the players available played and did OK. I thought for 60 minutes we looked a very decent group.”
Sunderland, meanwhile, have confirmed they will play a further pre-season friendly at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park on August 9 against Udinese (kick-off 3pm).