FIORENTINA have emerged as unlikely suitors for Sunderland defender Anton Ferdinand.
Ferdinand has been made available by the Black Cats after being pushed down the pecking order by the arrival of Titus Bramble and the imminent loan capture of John Mensah.
And while his price tag means that a permanent exit to a Premier League side looks unlikely, sources close to Ferdinand have revealed that the Serie A side are interested in signing the former England Under-21 man.
Black Cats boss Steve Bruce would certainly not stand in the way of a move abroad for Ferdinand, who was in and out of the side last year and commands a substantial weekly wage.
Although Ferdinand has been praised for his attitude and determination since returning from the summer break, Bruce appears unconvinced by him as a centre-back and has signed two right-backs – blocking an alternative posting for the former West Ham man.
Generally Ferdinand has been a reliable figure at Sunderland since his £6million move in 2008, but Bruce’s signing of Bramble was an indication that the manager is looking elsewhere for a partner for Michael Turner.
The Sunderland boss needs to clear some of his big earners from the wage bill before making any further signings – something he is struggling to do with most top-flight clubs tightening their belts.
The Black Cats have so far failed to find clubs for the likes of David Healy, Teemu Taino and George McCartney, all deemed surplus to requirements at the Stadium of Light.
And Bruce hopes that his recruitment drive is not finished yet.
French sports ‘paper l’Équipe claimed Sunderland had made an enquiry about Rennes defender Rod Fanni before he opted for Atlético Madrid while Bruce still has an interest in Wigan’s former Newcastle man Charles N’Zogbia.
N’Zogbia claimed yesterday that the Latics would not stand in his way if a bigger club launches a bid for him – perhaps the first step towards securing a move away from Wigan after a fine season last year.
“When I came here, I was in a period where I wanted to relaunch myself,” N’Zogbia said.
“Today I’m at Wigan but if tomorrow a good club with great aims contacts me, I am open. I have talked about it with my bosses.
“They won’t put a spoke in the wheel.”
Meanwhile, Bruce believes that his side will take a substantial step forward as the pre-season programme continues at Leicester this afternoon.
Darren Bent and Kenwyne Jones are back for the Black Cats, who named a 20-man squad including Paraguay World Cup star Paulo Da Silva for the trip to the East Midlands.
“I have been very pleased with the way pre-season is going so far and I think we are making progress with every game,” the Wearsiders’ manager revealed.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted against Benfica but it was a useful exercise and we have been working more on team shape and tactics this week.
“Now we’re down to the nitty gritty and I will be expecting to see more progress made by the players against Leicester.
“We are on the right path and our sights are firmly set on the big kick-off on August 14.” With Leicester a week ahead of Sunderland in their pre-season preparations, it should be a formidable challenge for the Black Cats squad. “We’ll play a strong squad and I have a good squad available to me,” Bruce said.
“Of course we know what Leicester can do. They are familiar to us with Waggy having been there, although Paulo Sousa has come in since.
“A trip down there is always tough, that’s exactly the kind of test we need at this stage of pre-season.”
SUNDERLAND (from): Angeleri, Al-Muhammadi, Bardsley, Bent, Bramble, Campbell, Carson, Cattermole, Colback, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Henderson, Jones, Liddle, Malbranque, Mignolet, Richardson, Turner, Waghorn, Zenden.