Paolo Di Canio will try to persuade Jack Colback he has a future as Sunderland’s left-back to solve two of his most pressing issues in one swoop.
Despite a summer which has seen the Black Cats sign nine new players, they are still struggling to sign a specialist full-back.
And while coach Di Canio would happily dispense with most of the squad he inherited late last season, Colback is one he would dearly like to keep.
The problem is, the 23-year-old midfielder is in the final year of his contract, and has rejected all attempts to sign him to a new one.
Yesterday Colback’s old Sunderland manager Steve Bruce – now at Hull City – was linked with a ï¿½5.5m bid.
Sunderland, though, are in no position to sell, with Valencia’s Aly Cissoko expected to become the latest left-back target to elude them.
The Frenchman is understood to have agreed terms with Liverpool.
Danny Rose was the club’s only specialist left-back last season, and Di Canio would have loved to make the England Under-21 defender’s loan move permanent.
But there was always an acceptance that Rose had played himself out of a move by doing so well at the Stadium of Light last season, where he was the club’s outstanding outfield player.
Even if parent club Tottenham Hotspur had been prepared to sell, they would have put a high premium on an English player. But manager Andre Villas-Boas was sufficiently impressed by Rose’s performances for Sunderland to promise him an important role in the coming campaign.
The Wearsiders have scoured the market for alternatives, but Benjamin Mendy has joined Marseille and Lucas Orban has moved to Bordeaux. They also looked at Eintracht Frankfurt’s Bastian Oczipka, who confirmed their interest, then dismissed it.
“It is a lucrative offer but does not appeal in a sporting sense,” he said. “We are a side going to play in the Europa League this season. Therefore I am not interested in just ticking over at a mid-table team in England.”
Bruce is looking to add two more midfielders to his squad, having sold Corry Evans to Blackburn Rovers.
The Tigers been linked with a host of Sunderland players, including Lee Cattermole. The Black Cats are willing to sell their captain, who has not played for the first team during pre-season after ending the last campaign injured. Bruce, though, is much more interested in Colback, who became established as a Premier League player under his management.
Sunderland’s only specialist full-back is the right-footed Phil Bardsley, publicly ostracised after ill-advised late-night antics in the final week of last season. It is hard to imagine him playing for the club again. Fulham appears his most likely destination.
Other options, including Swiss Under-21 international Loris Benito, are being explored, but Colback has been Sunderland’s left-back during a pre-season campaign which takes them to Denmark for their final scheduled game, against Midtjylland, tomorrow.
Tyneside-born Colback prefers to play in midfield but has impressed on his occasional appearances at left-back, and with a welter of midfield signings this summer, it looks his best route to regular first-team football on Wearside. Di Canio will try to convince him it is his best position full stop.
“Now we’re playing in a different way, he’s started to understand that as a left-back he becomes like a winger,” the coach said recently.
“With the system we’re going to use this year, both full-backs often during the game will become wingers. He’s going to enjoy it.”
Colback’s chances of playing in his preferred position have been weakened by the signing of Cabral and, while the full-back positions are a higher priority, more midfielders could follow. Inter Milan’s Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Napoli’s Walter Gargano – on loan at Inter last season, and left out of Napoli’s Emirates Cup squad at the weekend – are the latest to be linked.
Both are known to chief scout Valentino Angeloni, previously at Inter.