MARTIN O'NEILL is ready to fend off the challenge of West Ham United in his pursuit of adding Senegalese midfielder Mohamed Diame to his squad for next season.
O'Neill has been a slow mover in the transfer market so far and is not expecting much to change in the next ten days.
But he has been made aware of new interest in Diame from Premier League new-boys West Ham, whose manager Sam Allardyce is already busy in the transfer market.
He has already earmarked Sunderland's Ahmed Elmohamady among a long list of potential arrivals, with O'Neill looking for around £1.5m for the Egyptian.
But it has also emerged Diame, set to become a free agent after finishing last season with Wigan Athletic, is interesting Allardyce.
That could cause problems to O'Neill, who has identified the 24-year-old as one of his early targets.
The Sunderland manager will have to be creative in the transfer market and is hoping to bring in a couple of free agents - and move one or two on - before he seriously looks at spending.
Diame, a ball playing midfielder, has also been interesting Liverpool's new boss Brendan Rodgers, so O'Neill knows moving soon could be the secret to getting a deal done.
One free agent unlikely to be arriving next month is Aston Villa defender Carlos Cuellar.
Cuellar, who was signed by the Northern Irishman when he was in charge at Villa Park, was among the players under consideration by O'Neill.
But he is understood to have decided against pursuing a deal for the Spaniard, whose agent yesterday claimed he is more likely to go abroad.
Galatasaray, Olympiacos and Osasuna are among those keen on the 30-year-old and Pedro Bravo, the agent, said: "Sunderland have not made an offer for Carlos. They have not phoned me."