SUNDERLAND have rejected an offer from Blackburn Rovers for El-Hadji Diouf as manager Ricky Sbragia has refused to sanction the sale of the Senegal international.
Diouf has struggled to live up to expectations at the Stadium of Light following his £2.5m summer move from Bolton Wanderers and it was initially thought he would be allowed to leave during the transfer window as the Wearsiders look to trim the size of their squad.
That prompted a tentative bid from Rovers manager Sam Allardyce – who worked with the striker at the Reebok Stadium – but it has been rejected by Sbragia who is adamant the 27-year-old remains an important part of his plans.
Diouf, who has started just 11 games this season, returned to the starting line-up in the FA Cup victory over his former club last weekend and produced arguably his best performance in a red-and-white shirt in the 2-1 win.
That appears to have been a timely reminder to Sbragia of what he can add to the side and, having discussed his future with the player, Rovers’ enquiry was knocked back.
A Blackburn source said: “Blackburn wanted to try and sign El-Hadji Diouf and they made their interest known to Sunderland, but it was rejected immediately. He must have had a good game against Bolton because Ricky Sbragia does not want to lose him.”
Diouf has always argued he would be happy to stay on Wearside as long as he was getting regular first-team football and it seems the new
manager has indicated he will be move involved following a meeting this week.
Speaking after his impressive display against Bolton last weekend, Diouf said: “I have had a brief chat with Ricky, but I want to have a longer conversation with him and I’m just waiting to see what happens next.
“Maybe I will go, maybe I will stay. If I get more time on the pitch and am picked for more games, why shouldn’t I stay? I would want to stay if that happened. But if I am not playing and the manager doesn’t need me, I would want to go.
“I need to have a proper chat with Ricky and find out what his plans for me are. I need to see what he imagines me doing in the second half of the season.
“The bottom line is I want to play. I know Ricky very well because we worked together at Bolton as well. I feel I can tell him exactly what I want, and hopefully he’ll feel he can tell me exactly what he wants. I’m sure he will feel like he can tell me whether he needs me or not.”
Despite bringing him to Sunderland, Diouf appears to have fallen out with former boss Roy Keane and was struggling to even earn a place on the bench in the latter period of the Irishman’s reign.
Sbragia, though, has told every player they will get a new chance to impress following his promotion to first-team manager and Diouf has been impressed with the Scot’s impact so far.
Another player who does not look as though he will be leaving the Stadium of Light in the near future is striker David Healy, despite reported interest from Glasgow Rangers.
The Northern Ireland international has turned into the invisible man on Wearside since his move from Fulham and, although Sunderland could be willing to let him go for the right price, no bids have been received.
The 29-year-old has not started a single Premier League game for the Black Cats, with his solitary goal for the club coming in the 2-1 Carling Cup win over Nottingham Forest back in August.
Healy, according to reports in Scotland, has been lined up as a replacement for Birmingham-bound Kris Boyd, but the player’s agent insists no approach has been made.
Stephen Hughes said: “I have heard nothing. We are not engineering anything. I spoke to Sunderland earlier this week, and nothing was mentioned.”
Meanwhile, midfielder Andy Reid last night re-affirmed his hope to play for the Republic of Ireland.
Boss Giovanni Trapattoni has insisted the door remains open for Stephen Ireland to return to the international fold, giving hope to Reid who said: “I’d pay my own flight over there and everything to go over and play for Ireland.”