Habib Beye is next in Steve Bruce’s sights

SUNDERLAND have made a bid for Aston Villa right-back Habib Beye as Steve Bruce tries to add some defensive steel to his squad during the transfer window.

Habib Beye

SUNDERLAND have made a bid for Aston Villa right-back Habib Beye as Steve Bruce tries to add some defensive steel to his squad during the transfer window.

The news the Black Cats are pursuing Beye will be another bitter pill to swallow for Newcastle fans after Sunderland last night completed a deal to take one of the Magpies’ top January transfer targets, Sheffield United defender Matthew Kilgallon, to the Stadium of Light.

Kilgallon has signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with the Black Cats after the two clubs agreed an undisclosed fee.

Beye was one of the most popular players at United last season before asking to leave in the summer following relegation and the prospect of seeing him in the red and white stripes of their bitter rivals just five months later will be a depressing one for many United followers. The Senegal international has been unable to hold down a regular first team place at Villa following his £2m move and The Journal understands he would be willing to sign for the Black Cats, despite his Newcastle past and supposed affection for the club.

Sunderland entered a bid on Wednesday night as Villa played in their Carling Cup semi-final against Blackburn Rovers, with Beye among the substitutes.

That bid has not been rejected and there is growing optimism in the Sunderland camp they will get to speak to the player over the course of the next few days. Sunderland have not ended their interest in Hamburg right-back Guy Demel, but they know that the Ivory Coast star will cost considerably more than Beye and the Wearsiders are still hoping to persuade Wigan to sell Maynor Figueroa before the end of the month.

Significantly, Bruce also knows that Beye will be able to slot straight into the side if needed as he has two and a half years of experience in English football behind him and will not need to acclimatise to the North East.

Although 28-year-old Demel had a short spell at Arsenal as a teenager, he did not play in the Premier League and will obviously need time to settle. There is even a risk his style of play will not be suited to Sunderland’s needs and he will fail to adapt to his new surroundings on Wearside, despite Bruce’s good track record in signing foreign imports.

Bruce hopes Villa will accept a bid of around £3m for the 32-year-old as manager Martin O’Neill has other options for that position in the squad, although the asking price for Demel is thought to be as high as £6m. The 28-year-old is also still distracted by his involvement in the Africa Cup of Nations and the Black Cats have failed to make any progress over the last fortnight, despite expressing their interest at the turn of the year. Sunderland will only sign one or the other this month as they have other positions to fill and a limited budget, but Beye appears to have become their preferred target at this stage despite the fact he will have little or no sell on value because of his age.

Kilgallon, meanwhile, will be unavailable for the trip to Portsmouth tomorrow as he has already appeared in the FA Cup this season for the Blades.

Bruce said: “Matthew is a very talented defender and has been coveted by a number of top-flight clubs so I’m very pleased to have brought him here. He will add to our options across the back.”

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