WITH El-Hadji Ba emerging as Sunderland’s latest out-of-contract signing, the Black Cats are closing in on Luis Pedro Cavanda as Phil Bardsley’s replacement.
Although there is still some haggling to be done over it, the Belgian Under-21 international is primed to be the first genuine buy of Paolo Di Canio’s new regime. Lazio are ready to cash in on the right-back before he gets into the final year of his contract next month, but knowing that Sunderland’s new director of football Roberto De Fante is determined not to pay over the odds for the Angolan-born 22-year-old.
The Biancocelesti want 5m (£4.26m) for Cavanda but Sunderland value him at only half that. And the Italians have weakened their hand by leaving Cavanda out of the team since it became clear he was not going to extend his contract.
He has not played for them since January. It halted the progress of an impressive first half of the season where he built on loan spells at Torino and Bari. Like Bardsley, Cavanda is predominantly a right-back who can also play at left-back.
He has also made a handful of appearances on the right of midfield. Having moved there as a child from Africa, Cavanda is a Belgian Under-18, 19 and 21
international but is yet to play for the first team. Having an EU passport means there will be no problems in getting him a work permit.
Although De Fanti was only officially confirmed in his new job on Monday, he has already signed four players and the suggestion from France last night was that Le Havre midfielder Ba will become the fifth. French sports newspaper L’Equipe is reporting that a three-year deal has been agreed.
Like Duncan Watmore, Cabral, Modibo Diakité and Valentin Roberge, Ba is a free agents, although the Black Cats will have to pay a compensation fee for 19-year-old Watmore and 20-year-old Ba because of their ages, the latter expected to be around 400,000.
Di Canio is a former Lazio player, having had two spells with the club he supported as a boy. Diakité, a central defender, is also from the Roman club.
Bardsley has been told to find a new club after his antics in a casino shortly before the end of the season.
The Scotland international was pictured lying on the floor covered in £50 notes late on the night Sunderland’s place in next season’s Premier League was confirmed.
Di Canio took a dim view of the distasteful antics of Bardsley and club-mate Matthew Kilgallon. And although the head coach expressed some contradictory views in the same Press conference, one was that the pair would not play for the club again.
Both were dropped from the final Premier League game of the season, Di Canio opting instead for a bench overloaded with inexperienced teenagers.
As had long been expected, Kilgallon’s contract will not be renewed when it expires this month.
Bardsley had anyway been a bit-part player last season after never recovering from missing the whole of pre-season through injury. Despite being the club’s only specialist right-back he started just 11 league matches, often watching from the bench as midfielder Craig Gardner filled in for him. Di Canio will hardly have been enamoured by the fact both defenders have appealed against their fines. Bardsley was docked two weeks’ wages, £60,000.
With Di Canio so determined to revamp his squad and rid it of the negative influences he detected when he took over for the final seven games of the season, the changes will not stop with Cavanda.
Midfielders Alessandro Rossina and Milos Krasic are others to have been targeted, and efforts will be made to move on some under-contract players to balance the books and purge the squad of what Di Canio sees as its “unprofessional” elements.