SUNDERLAND could sell Lamine Kone in January to help David Moyes’ own bid to strengthen his squad in the battle for Premier League survival.

Despite signing a new contract in September, Kone remains a highly sought after player and one of the Black Cats’ most saleable assets.

Southampton are the latest club to have been credited with an interest in the Ivorian centre-back, with Moyes already well aware that West Ham United and Everton are keen on him.

Sunderland knocked back offers up to £21m in the summer for the 27-year-old and Kone has struggled to find the sort of form since the uncertainty surrounding his future surfaced before the start of the season.

But Moyes knows he will have to be creative in the transfer market when the January transfer window opens if he wants to bring in any more new faces.

And he has made no secret of his willingness to listen to offers for his players and he would sell if he felt it could make his team stronger in the long term.

Only Kone and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford could command the sort of eight-figure fees which would seriously affect Sunderland’s spending power, even if there are other players like Duncan Watmore who are valued relatively highly.

Moyes would prefer to keep local lad Pickford and only last week he suggested the England prospect would be better off staying at the Stadium of Light at this stage to develop his career rather than moving on.

Kone, however, would be a different scenario, even though he has established himself as Sunderland’s main defender since arriving from Lorient for £5m in January and he will be at the heart of the defence against Leicester City tomorrow.

Moyes did not want to lose him during the summer until he had a replacement lined up and the club followed up a promise to issue a new contract even though it was made during Sam Allardyce’s time in charge.

There would still be a reluctance to sell in January if Moyes wasn’t confident that he had the suitable options available to turn to during the final few months of the season.

But Sunderland are braced to receive further calls next month from agents and clubs interested in taking him away from Wearside.

West Ham have emerged as the front-runners for his signature since September, although Everton have retained an interest but are ready to turn to Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk in Ronald Koeman’s bid to improve the Toffees.

Koeman was hugely impressed with van Dijk’s impact in the Premier League and the former Celtic defender is now rated in the £40m bracket by the Saints.

If Everton can persuade Southampton into selling for such a substantial figure then Kone is among the contenders to replace him.

Whether Sunderland can still get the sort of £20m fee which was being talked about in the summer remains to be seen, although Moyes and chief executive Martin Bain would be keen to get top price if they do decide to sell.

Moyes has already started to look at who he can bring in too, and he is keen to maintain the youthful vibrancy which is the direction he is keen to take Sunderland.

The name of Arsenal defender Carl Jenkinson, who has been targeted by previous Sunderland managers, has resurfaced again. The 24-year-old right-back has only appeared five times for the Gunners this season, once in the Premier League. He spent last season on loan at West Ham.