SUNDERLAND’S hopes of signing Freddie Ladapo have suffered a major blow after Rotherham United opened formal talks with the Plymouth Argyle striker.

Rotherham agreed a £500,000 fee with Plymouth at the weekend, and officials from the South Yorkshire club held discussions with Ladapo’s representatives yesterday.

With Portsmouth having pulled out of a proposed deal last week because of concerns over Ladapo’s financial demands, Rotherham have moved quickly to try to engineer an agreement of their own.

Sunderland have also discussed Ladapo’s position with the Plymouth hierarchy, but while sources on Wearside insist delays over Mark Campbell’s proposed takeover are not hampering the club’s transfer business, the Black Cats are yet to make a single signing this summer.

Ladapo was one of their primary targets in January, and while they eventually opted against a move the 26-year-old and instead shelled out £3m to sign Will Grigg, Jack Ross had been keen to rekindle his interest this summer.

That could still happen, but Rotherham have stolen a march by agreeing a deal over the weekend and will hope to wrap up Ladapo’s signing in the next 48 hours.

Ladapo scored 19 goals in all competitions last season, but is leaving Home Park in the wake of Plymouth’s relegation to League Two.

As well as pursuing Ladapo, Sunderland remain interested in Doncaster Rovers striker John Marquis, who is valued at around £1m.