JOHN Mensah expects to re-sign for Sunderland on a season-long loan by the middle of next week.
The Ghana defender has agreed terms with the Black Cats and is now waiting for the Wearsiders to thrash out a deal with Lyon before the French club’s Friday deadline.
Although there is still some work to be done on the size of the loan fee, both parties appear to be confident that Mensah will be back at the Stadium of Light – maybe even in time to play some part in the Hoffenheim friendly next week.
That would represent significant progress on the recruitment front for Steve Bruce – who saw target David James sign for Bristol City yesterday.
The Sunderland boss was always facing an uphill struggle to sign the England goalkeeper, who was only ever seen as a temporary solution while Craig Gordon recovers from a broken arm.
James cited “family reasons” for his decision to stay in the south.
While that was a blow for Sunderland, bringing Mensah back into the fold would be a considerable fillip for the club.
His agent, Fabien Pivateau stressed that there is still work, to be done but he believes a deal is moving closer.
“Next week is the deadline for the deal to go through,” Pivateau told The Journal. “There are negotiations going on at the moment – John has already agreed a deal with Sunderland and there is an agreement in place between the club and player.
“There are other teams who are interested but with Sunderland, everything is arranged and John is happy with that. He always said he wanted to go back to England with Sunderland. Now Lyon and Sunderland need to find an agreement – but I think that is close. I think it could be announced and everything will be finalised by the middle of next week.”
The signing of Mensah looks set to be the last of Bruce’s defensive buys, following the captures of Marcos Angeleri, Ahmed Al-Muhammadi and Titus Bramble.
Mensah will pick up a basic wage but there is understood to be a pay-as-you-play element included in the deal, which would include add-ons for Lyon and the player if he completes a certain number of games.
If the Ghana defender didn’t have so many fitness problems, Bruce would have been looking to take up the £9million buy-out clause that Sunderland negotiated with Lyon last summer.
But a problem with his spinal canal means he is likely to pick up muscle and hamstring tweaks over the course of the campaign, which may limit his involvement.
A specially-devised fitness programme should help him improve on the 16 appearance he made last season.
While the club appear to be moving forward on the Mensah front, Bruce is now unlikely to sign a goalkeeper after James opted for Championship side Bristol City.
The Sunderland manager had been hoping to convince a sceptical board of the need to sign the experienced James but the goalkeeper has now taken the decision out of the Black Cats’ hands.
“I’ve had offers to stay in the Premier League but it is more important that I play football – which I love – for the right club and be a family man,” James said yesterday.
“I had a long conversation with the chairman Steve Lansdown yesterday and I liked what he said about the club and his ambition. I know all about the plans for a new stadium and desire to win promotion to the Premier League.
“The club is ambitious and that’s what I am. The south west has not had a club in the Premier League, and that needs to change.”