SUNDERLAND are targeting two high-profile loan additions after accepting that Fabio Borini is extremely unlikely to agree to a return to the Stadium of Light this month.
Black Cats head coach Gus Poyet has effectively given Borini and his representatives a deadline of tonight to decide on the striker’s future, but as of yesterday, there had still not been any indication that the Italian is willing to complete a proposed £14m move from Liverpool.
Sunderland’s offer will effectively remain on the table until the closure of the transfer window on September 1, and it remains possible that Borini could rejoin on another loan, but with Saturday’s 2-2 draw with West Brom having underlined the lack of attacking options currently available, there is a consensus among the club’s hierarchy that alternative options must now be pursued.
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While last month’s £14m offer to Liverpool underlines that funds are available, both Poyet and sporting director Lee Congerton are reluctant to spend that kind of money at such a late stage of the transfer window on a player or players who they have not extensively scouted in the last few weeks.
Therefore, while both figures are determined to add to Sunderland’s attacking ranks in the next fortnight, the signings are likely to be long-term loan deals, with a view to a signing next summer, rather than permanent deals for a large upfront fee.
Ideally, Poyet would like to recruit an out-and-out striker, enabling him to offload Danny Graham, who was an unused substitute at the Hawthorns, and a forward who can also play in a wide position, negating the need for Connor Wickham to fill the kind of wide role he found himself in on Saturday.
The Uruguayan is understood to be targeting experienced forwards capable of taking a place in the match-day squad straight away, rather than up-and-coming youngsters who are still to prove themselves at a similar level to the Premier League. Therefore, Sunderland have called off their pursuit of Manchester City attacking midfielder Bruno Zuculini.
The Black Cats’ attacking situation is complicated by the continued uncertainty over Wickham, who was strongly linked with a possible £8m move to managerless Crystal Palace over the weekend.
Poyet remains determined to hold on to Wickham this month, but the 21-year-old’s continued reluctance to sign a new deal means Sunderland’s board will be compelled to consider any further offers, having already turned down a £4m bid from West Ham.
“In the next couple of weeks, if I get a phone call from the chief executive, I might not answer it,” said Poyet. “I don’t want any offers, but the situation is that if somebody offers money for a player, you can’t stop that. And there are offers that no one in the world can refuse.
“For example, when (Cristiano) Ronaldo was at Manchester United, I thought, ‘No, it doesn’t matter how much money they are offered’. But Manchester United said, ‘Yes, he’s going’.
“One of the worst situations I remember in football was with (Dimitar) Berbatov at Spurs, going to Manchester United. It was horrible to be there with Berba, not knowing if he was going. And then it’s tough because you need to bring other players in.
“I want them (Wickham and Steven Fletcher) to stay. They’ve played all pre-season together and I hope they can see how they play with us. They’ve got a place in the team. At the minute, there are no offers.”
Poyet admitted to mixed emotions in the wake of Saturday’s game, with Sunderland struggling for fluency in the first half before improving markedly after the interval.
“The last 20 or 25 minutes, that’s the way we need to play,” he said. “If the opposition plays, you need to adapt to the game.
“I wasn’t very happy with the way we played in the first half, especially technically. If we want to pass the ball, we need to be better than that.”