BORDEAUX have laughed off the suggestion that in-demand striker Marouane Chamakh could join Sunderland this summer – because the Black Cats are not big enough for him.
As Tottenham Hotspur attempt to muscle in on defensive target Paulo Da Silva, the comments are a sobering reminder that for all the money at the Stadium of Light, they lack the glamour of some of their Premier League counterparts.
All summer long the Wearsiders have been linked with Chamakh, whose goals helped take Laurent Blanc’s team to their first league title in a decade.
Les Girondins are understandably anxious to know the Moroccan’s plans for next season, but president Jean-Louis Triaud is certain they will not involve playing for Steve Bruce’s side.
"We never received any offers for Marouane Chamakh and what is he going to do in Sunderland?" said Triaud.
"I don’t want to insult Sunderland, but I don’t even know where they finished last season.
"You have heard him say he will only sign for a big English club."
Arsenal and Tottenham have also been linked with a man who scored 13 Ligue 1 goals last term and the suspicion is that it is Spurs, who are trying to gazzump Sunderland over Da Silva.
The England-bound Paraguay defender confirmed he has been offered a deal by the Black Cats, but is now expecting another.
"I have been offered a three-year contract with a team you already know about – Sunderland – but I’m now waiting an on offer from another English team," he said. "I’m sure in the next few days I will know who I’m going to sign for. I have to stop off in Paraguay to solve some visa problems, then I will meet with people in England to see what is the best thing for me."
Although Bruce now looks unlikely to have any new signings in place by the time the club returns for pre-season training tomorrow, it is not for a lack of effort. As well as working to secure Da Silva, the Black Cats are also pushing ahead with their attempts to sign strikers Peter Crouch and Darren Bent, from Portsmouth and Spurs respectively, and continue to be linked with a host of others, Liverpool’s Jermaine Pennant featuring prominently.
With a large transfer kitty at his disposal courtesy of new owner Ellis Short, Sunderland fans can expect their summer intake to be a mixture of expensive signings from Premier League clubs (if Crouch joins, the expected £14m fee will break the club’s transfer record) and the unheralded but talented foreign signings who have become Bruce’s hallmark.
Goalkeeper Craig Gordon has added to the sense of perspective by warning fans not to get carried away with thoughts of Champions League football. "We have to say last season was a bit of a disappointment," admitted the Scot.
"It wasn’t where we were looking to be.
"We were hoping to push on and improve on our first season back in the Premier League. In the end, we scraped by and just managed to stay in the league, which wasn’t what anybody at the club was looking for.
"The main thing is that from a bad situation, we managed to retain our status and we can now look to progress again, just like we wanted to last season. We have got to do it this season. We have got to build things slowly. You can’t just go from being a team that narrowly avoided relegation to qualifying for the Champions League. There are stages you have to go through.
"We have got to be looking a fair bit higher in the league than we managed last season and look to improve on that over the coming years."
For the 26-year-old, the biggest challenge next season will be winning back the place he lost to Hungarian Márton Fülöp during an injury-hit 2008-09.
SUNDERLAND reserves will travel to cash-strapped Guiseley for a friendly on August 4 (kick-off 7.45pm).