PAOLO DI CANIO is pressing ahead with his summer rebuilding plans but has been warned of significant competition from around Europe for £6m striker target Paulinho.
Russian big spenders Rubin Kazan have expressed a strong interest in taking the Livorno hot-shot out of Italy before the start of next season and that development has been relayed to the Stadium of Light.
Sources in Livorno insist Sunderland have been in touch to discuss the possibility of taking their 22-goal striker to the Premier League this summer and have verbally lodged a cash offer worth around £6m.
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But even though Di Canio is hoping his Italian links can pull off a deal, he is well aware that he is not the only manager keen to recruit him this summer.
Paulinho's goals in Serie B last season clinched promotion back to the top-flight but there is an acceptance that their prize asset will be sold this summer to fund their own recruitment drive.
Livorno's president Aldo Spinelli admitted this week that "Livorno are unlikely to do better that the last two years so it's fair to change and Livorno could use the investment."
That has put Paulinho's suitors on high alert, with Sunderland merely one of a growing number of clubs contacting the Tuscany club to discuss his availability.
But after suggesting a willingness to pay the £6m fee in cash, that could be to their advantage. Rubin are also happy to match the fee, although they are also likely to pay more in terms of a weekly wage.
The other option for Livorno at this stage is that Sampdoria, who are reluctant to match the £6m fee, have already had detailed discussions about a players-plus-cash deal.
Both midfielder Savvas Gentsoglou and goalkeeper Vincenzo Fiorillo, who spent last season on loan at Livorno, are wanted full-time and Sampdoria are willing to offload the pair and pay around £3m.
Paulinho, whose full name is Paulo Sergio Betanin, has spent the last nine years at Livorno after joining from Brazilian club Juventude in January 2005.
The 27-year-old, born in Brazil, was capped by the Brazilian Under-20s but a move to England would be made easier by the fact he holds an Italian passport.
Di Canio has already made good progress on the transfer front since the end of the season, but his attempts to land a new striker have been slower than other areas of the pitch.
Sunderland have already agreed terms with Lazio centre-back Modibo Diakite, Swiss midfielder Cabral, French defender Valentin Roberge and French midfielder El-Hadji Ba. All four will not officially join until becoming free agents at the end of their current contracts on July 1.
Di Canio is also looking at a couple of new wingers, with Fenerbahce's Milos Krasic and Newells Old Boys' Nacho Scocco in his sights. Strengthening Sunderland's attacking ranks is also high in his thinking.
South Korean Ji Dong-Won is due to return to Wearside for pre-season following a loan to Ausburg, but Di Canio has not been overly impressed with either Connor Wickham or Danny Graham.
Leading goalscorer Steven Fletcher is likely to be retained, even though he never played a minute's football after Di Canio replaced Martin O'Neill because of injury.
The Sunderland manager would have more money to spend if they cashed in on goalkeeper Simon Mignolet this summer. That is not a preferred option, but the Belgian's reluctance to commit to a new contract could force Di Canio's hand.
There were claims and counter-claims yesterday from the Mignolet camp. One thing clear, though, was that the 24-year-old is in no rush to sign a new deal with two years remaining on his contract.
Both Arsenal and Liverpool are the leading Premier League clubs keen to land him, while there has also been interest in him from abroad as he looks to become Belgium's No 1 in World Cup year.