JUAN SARTORI and Kyril Louis-Dreyfus remain strong favourites to complete a takeover at Sunderland despite rival interest from American financier Matthew Pauls.

The details of Pauls’ interest has emerged in the last couple of days, with the Washington-based businessman having been working on a possible bid for the Black Cats since the summer.

Pauls, whose business background is in hedge-fund management, is understood to be working with another US-based investor, and a representative of the duo visited Wearside earlier in the summer to be shown around Sunderland’s Stadium of Light ground and Academy of Light training complex.

Pauls has held meetings in London to discuss a possible takeover bid, and both Sunderland owner Stewart Donald and chief executive Jim Rodwell are aware of the potential interest.

However, Pauls’ group has not tabled an offer for the Black Cats and has not entered into a formal process of due diligence, which would pave the way for a takeover.

That means they are some way behind Sartori and Louis-Dreyfus in the process of trying to buy Sunderland, with their rivals having entered into a period of exclusivity with Donald.

Sartori and Louis-Dreyfus have agreed the framework of a deal that would see them take over 80 per cent of Sunderland’s shareholding, with Donald retaining 15 per cent ownership and former board member Charlie Methven holding on to his current five per cent share.

A deal is close to being completed, with a potential end date of the start of next month still regarded as realistic by sources close to the discussions.

Pauls’ interest does not change that situation, although the American is a viable fall-back option should talks with Sartori and Louis-Dreyfus unexpectedly break down.

If Pauls, a former US college soccer player, was to take over, he would install himself as chairman, with Donald retaining a similar sized shareholding to the one that is envisaged in the Sartori-Louis Dreyfus deal.

Speaking earlier this month, Rodwell said: “The party that we're in exclusivity with have shown us proof of funds - and they're the only people to actually do so.

“Lots of people are all over the internet claiming they're close to buying the football club, but only one party has ever shown us proof of funds and given us a credible plan to take the football club forward - and that's the party that we're currently in exclusivity with.”