ALMOST a year after taking him on trial, Sunderland are closing in on signing "the Egyptian David Beckham".
Ahmed Al-Muhammadi is expected on Wearside next week for talks over a season-long loan from ENPPI.
The 22-year-old, who can play anywhere down the right, has long been linked with the Black Cats after having a trial on Wearside in August.
There were strong rumours Al- Muhammadi had agreed a £2m move in January only for no deal to materialise, but The Journal understands there is some substance to the latest suggestion. West Bromwich Albion have also expressed an interest but the Black Cats will hope their long- standing contact pays dividends.
The right-footer has perhaps unfairly been labelled "the Egyptian David Beckham" in recognition of his crossing ability.
Bruce already has one right-back lined up for next season – Argentinian Marcos Angeleri will join from Estudiantes for £2m as soon he receives an Italian passport – but with Phil Bardsley likely to leave this summer, he will want cover.
The right side of midfield was also a problem last term. Steed Malbranque played there for much of the season but was far more effective once switched to the left.
Centre-forward Fraizer Campbell and central midfielder Jordan Henderson also played there.
Bruce made good use of the loan system last season, with defenders Alan Hutton and John Mensah from Tottenham and Lyon respectively.
Sunderland would like both back but feel the valuations currently on them are unrealistic and are actively pursuing other alternatives, of which Al-Muhammadi is one.
Despite winning the last three African Cup of Nations, Egypt failed to qualify for this World Cup but Al-Muhammadi did play against England in a March friendly.
Paris Saint Germain midfielder Stéphane Sessègnon has also been linked to Sunderland. The £8m-rated Benin international began as a holding player, but now plays wide or as an advanced playmaker.
Sessègnon is keen to leave France, saying: "I want to move out of PSG. They know it, I know it."
His agent, Rudy Raba, claims he is a target for English and continental clubs and has in the past stated his client’s preference for Arsenal.
Tottenham have also been linked, and Everton’s David Moyes is said to have scouted the 26-year-old.
Meanwhile, Sunderland’s hopes of having two players in the knockout stage of the World Cup rest on Paraguay’s mentality today, according to defender Paulo Da Silva.
Da Silva and recent addition Cristian Riveros – the Black Cats’ only representatives in South Africa – will be looking to seal their place in the next round by avoiding defeat against New Zealand.
The Kiwis began the tournament as 2,000-1 outsiders but go into the final round of group matches with a chance of qualifying after holding Italy to a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
Paraguay top Group F after a good victory over Slovakia, with Riveros on the scoresheet, but Da Silva warns complacency could be costly against the All Whites.
"When we face New Zealand, we need to go out with the same attitude," he said. "Qualifying is down to us. New Zealand have shown in their two previous matches that they have an important physical strength and that they are good in the air.
"They are good on counter attacks and we have to keep doing what we did against Slovakia."
Riveros joined on a free transfer before the tournament kicked off and is yet to play for the Black Cats.