REGIS Le Bris admits he's unable to absolutely guarantee Sunderland will be able to keep hold of stars such as Jobe Bellingham and Jack Clarke this summer - but he believes the Black Cats will do everything in their power to retain their top talent.

And the new head coach believes that come the end of the summer transfer window, he'll have a strong and balanced squad that he thinks will be able to compete at the top end of the Championship.

Le Bris has only spent a week with his players but has already seen first hand why Clarke was such a crucial figure last season. With two years to run on his current contract and with the former Leeds and Tottenham winger having been in demand in previous windows, an exit has always felt on the cards this summer.

But Sunderland are understood to be calm about Clarke's contract situation and don't think a sale is inevitable this summer even if, as is currently the case, an agreement on a new deal can't be reached.

Several Premier League clubs are keen on Clarke, who was also wanted by Lazio in January.

The Italian club have also shown an interest in Bellingham, but firm offers for the teenager this summer are more likely to come from the top flight, with Crystal Palace having identified the former Birmingham City youngster as a top target and Brentford also showing an interest. It's understood Sunderland value Bellingham at £20m.

The likes of Anthony Patterson, Dan Ballard and Dan Neil have also caught the eye of Premier League clubs, but Le Bris is understandably desperate to keep his most important players ahead of his first full season in charge at the Stadium of Light.


He admits the future of his stars is, to an extent, out of his hands because if a Premier League club offers mega money, Sunderland will inevitably have their hands forced. But the priority on Wearside, says the new head coach, is success on the pitch, so there's a determination to keep the club's best players.

"It's difficult to have guarantees because the market can be crazy sometimes, but I feel the ambition," said Le Bris.

"Obviously the market and transfer window will not be as we'd expect it just now but we will adapt with the circumstances and at the end I think we'll have a balanced team with players who are able to play our style of play and to perform on the pitch."

Transfer speculation and uncertainty is nothing new for Clarke, who has been in-demand for the last 18 months or so. Le Bris is well aware of the importance of keeping the winger this summer.

He said: "We like good players – the players who are able to dribble, attack the box, score and give the last key passes. They are very important for the team.

"He is an important player – other players are very important for the team also. If we are able to keep the core of this team, I think it will be very helpful to enable us to perform quickly, with one, two or three players more. He is very important, as are all the players."