Gustavo Poyet has praised the impact of “impressive” Santiago Vergini and re-stated his desire to broker a permanent deal for the Argentina defender.
Vergini was one of Poyet’s January signings who started slowly before blossoming when called on to fill the Black Cats’ right-back berth towards the end of the campaign.
Poyet admits it was “unfair” to ask him to play out of position and acknowledges that further poor performances might have “killed” a player who had made a couple of costly errors in his early days in England but feels the way he bounced back said much about his qualities.
Poyet now wants to make Vergini a permanent signing but with talks still ongoing between Ellis Short, Lee Congerton and the Sunderland manager it remains to be seen whether he can push through a deal in the early part of the summer.
With Carlos Cuellar having already departed and Mo Diakite and Valentin Roberge told they can leave, Sunderland have been shortlisting potential targets to supplement first-choice pairing Wes Brown and John O’Shea next season.
Poyet wants pace, energy and an ability to play out from the back to suit his style while Congerton has thrown Michael Mancienne’s name into the mix. The Hamburg defender moved to the Bundesliga on Congerton’s watch after a decent spell at Wolves.
But Poyet would clearly like to make Vergini one of his priority signings in a summer that promises plenty of change at the Stadium of Light.
“(Vergini’s) form pleases me a lot for different reasons,” he said. “Firstly because I brought him here but also because I know him as a person and a player and I know how important it was for him to succeed in England. He was playing out of position so it is even more impressive what he has done. If you know the player and how much he is willing to play, you want to give him that opportunity.
“Everything came at the same time for us – Phil (Bardsley) was suspended, Celustka was injured and Craig Gardner was ill so he was the only option as a right-back. I saw him two or three times there so gave him the opportunity.
“It was almost unfair on him because if he plays badly there, it might kill him. He didn’t and you have to give him an incredible amount of credit. Technically he was the best player at Old Trafford, which was outstanding.
“He deserves it, he’s a terrific lad and it will be nice to sit down after we’ve finished the season and have a good chat with him.”
With Poyet still thrashing out details of his transfer budget, the reality is that he may have to shift some players to fund new recruits.
But two of his squad members who might have been considered vulnerable have spoken of their desire to stay at Sunderland. Striker Jozy Altidore says that he is looking forward to returning to the Stadium of Light and proving his doubters wrong.
“Absolutely (I’ll return to Sunderland in the summer). I’m looking forward to next season,” he said.
“For me it’ll be a fun challenge. I’m looking forward to getting back there next season and hitting the ground running from the first game on.
“I believe in myself. You’re going to go through tough times. It can’t be that every season you have a blinder. The biggest thing is how you respond to that.”
And on Monday evening Emanuel Giaccherini spoke of his determination to do the same.
“Now I can say for sure, this is a more difficult competition – there are players and teams of the absolute highest calibre,” the winger told the Italian press. “Manchester United are seventh here not just as a result of their own errors, but for the great competition there is. The Premier League is really exciting.
“My future? Yes I really want to play here again. I want to stay and do even better, with the experience accumulated. I still have a three-year contract, I’m fine where I am, but let’s see what will happen.”
Both Giaccherini and Altidore have been named in their provisional World Cup squads.