O’Neill has identified several positions he is keen to strengthen in a bid to improve last season’s 13th place finish and a wide man is high on his shopping list.
Former Middlesbrough man Johnson left the Riverside in a deal worth £8million in 2010, but has since struggled to hold down a regular starting place under Roberto Mancini and sources in the
North-West claim he is growing disillusioned with his lack of opportunities.
After beating their Manchester rivals to the Premier League title last season, Mancini is planning to make changes to his squad, but it is understood Johnson will only be allowed to leave if a
suitable offer comes in.
The Black Cats have been linked with a move for the England international in the past and it is believed O’Neill could try to tempt the midfielder back to his native North-East with the offer of
regular first-team football this summer.
However, the fact City will be looking to recoup a big chunk of the £8m they paid for the winger just over two years ago may be a stumbling block for O’Neill.
Owner Ellis Short will make funds available for O’Neill to bring players in, but with several areas of the squad needing to be addressed over the summer, it is unlikely he will spend a chunk of
that on one player.
That could change should there be a high profile departure from the Stadium of Light with playmaker Stephane Sessegnon attracting interest from several clubs including Manchester City, but O’Neill
is also keen to keep his star man.
It remains to be seen whether a swap deal involving Johnson and Sessegnon could happen, but neither club will allow their player to leave on loan or on the cheap.
Sessegnon was in action for Benin on Sunday as they drew 1-1 with Rwanda in a World Cup qualifier, while Ji Dong Won came on for South Korea as a second half substitute in their 4-1 win over Qatar
on Friday night.