Marcos Alonso will be Sunderland’s first signing of 2014 – and an indication that Gustavo Poyet is in control of transfer business.
The Black Cats have confirmed Spanish left-back Alonso will join the club tomorrow, although he will not make his debut until Sunday’s FA Cup third-round tie at home to Carlisle United.
Poyet’s predecessor Paolo Di Canio complained loudly that director of football Roberto De Fanti did not sign the players he wanted, but the Uruguayan has been interested in former Real Madrid player Alonso for more than 18 months.
“Because of my past in Spain (where he played for Real Zaragoza) I watch a lot of Spanish football,” Sunderland’s coach explained. “Even though Marcos just played one game for Real Madrid I’d see him play. When he came to Bolton from Real it surprised me.
“We played against him last year at Brighton (for Bolton) and he scored against us. We were looking for a player in that position before we got Wayne Bridge. We were looking at him for the future but when we found out he was going to Fiorentina, we stopped, but we always kept an eye on him and he became available again.”
Alonso made 46 appearances in a three-year spell at Bolton, and that experience will appeal to Poyet, who cannot afford another bedding-in period like the 13 foreign signings Sunderland made in the summer needed.
At the end of his Trotters’ contract last summer, Alonso joined Fiorentina, where he has been restricted to one Serie A start.
“It’s simple for me, the left-back at Fiorentina, Manuel Pasqual, is the captain and he’s playing in the (Italian) national team as well,” Poyet explained. “It wasn’t easy convincing Fiorentina to let him come. Everything worked in the end, but it wasn’t easy.” Although Alonso will join as soon as possible, the first day of the transfer window is a New Year’s Day bank holiday, meaning in practice it is January 2 before new recruits can join.
Poyet has earmarked the FA Cup tie for Alonso’s debut, and expects the 23-year-old to be ready by then.
“We tested him after his medical and he looked good physically in the tests and on paper,” he said. “Playing 90 minutes of football Sunday and Tuesday? I’m not so sure. We’ll manage it with him but he’s an open boy and he talks and expresses himself so it’s not going to be a problem.”
Poyet is keen to sign a winger and a centre-forward next month, with former Newcastle United player Charles N’Zogbia thought to be on his shopping list. Brighton holding midfielder Liam Bridcutt is another target.
But the area of Sunderland’s squad where they have been most under-resourced is left-back.
The Black Cats had not had a specialist of their own between selling George McCartney and signing Andrea Dossena on deadline day in August. But the former Liverpool player started injured, was sent off on his debut and has looked sluggish ever since. He had a terrible game at Cardiff City on Saturday.
Poyet talked upon arrival of only using players in their correct positions, but Dossena’s failings have led to right-footed Phil Bardsley being regularly used at left-back.
“We (Poyet and De Fanti) sat down and looked at a number of left-backs,” he revealed. “We had different options and I like to put everything on the table – the names, conditions and the possibilities. We don’t just say I want Marcelo from Real Madrid.
“When we have everything on the table, that’s when I say yes or no.
“We concentrated on two or three (targets at left-back), and of course Marcos was very easy because I’ve known him a long time. Then he became the priority. That kind of stopped the other ones we were looking at.”