SUNDERLAND are weighing up a move for Peru defender Jesus Rabanal as they look to secure left-back cover before the transfer deadline.
The 26-year-old international, who plays for Lima club Universitario, has been on trial at the Academy of Light this week after a recommendation from Hartlepool winger Nobby Solano.
While there are concerns about whether he is match-fit enough to slot straight into the Sunderland squad, he would provide a relatively cheap solution to Martin O’Neill’s need for defensive cover.
Rabanal has also been considered by Doncaster Rovers but is desperate to seal a switch to the Stadium of Light.
Rovers boss Dean Saunders confirmed his interest earlier this week, but he has been training with the Wearsiders.
O’Neill has invited a raft of trialists to the club’s training base this week as he hunts for cost-effective solutions to their need for a few extra recruits to protect against injuries and suspensions for the rest of the season.
The Journal understands he has turned down the chance to take a closer look at St Etienne’s Sylvain Monsoreau, who was due to join on trial this week.
However, he has made it clear he will continue to look at players this month. For the most part they have failed to impress – free agent Enoch Balotelli and Bosnia striker Zlatan Muslimovic were both allowed to leave after just one day of training – but Rabanal has been with the club for most of the week.
He can play on the left or in the centre of defence and is an attacking defender.
He has seven caps for Peru and has played almost 150 times for Universitario, who are a top-flight Peruvian side. O’Neill has not publicly spoken about his Black Cats budget, but the sort of targets being sourced by Sunderland are indicative of a club not looking to spend big in January.
They are keen on Kevin Davies of Bolton and Aston Villa’s Emile Heskey, who is out of contract at the end of the season, is another option for the Black Cats.
Part of Sunderland’s reticence to spend big is because Asamoah Gyan is due back on Wearside from his loan spell with Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates at the end of the season.
In intriguing quotes which have emerged from an interview in Ghana with Niall Quinn, there appears to be a possibility he may be back on board under O’Neill.
Quinn said: “We have not given up on seeing Gyan playing for Sunderland again.
“I have not given up hope at seeing him at the football club, but maybe things are going on so well for him out there he does not want to come back. Right now we don’t know.
“We took the opinion maybe Asa needed to get this in and out of his system and go off and play where he has played. We respect the club he has gone to.
“We have very good dialogue with that club and we know come April time there will be a decision to be made.”
Quinn, who is now international and national marketing director of Sunderland, was in Accra this week as part of a business initiative.
He added: “Basically, I think the ball is in Asa’s court.
“There was a little bit of friction when he first left but the reality is he is a top-class player.
“I get on so, so well with him. He is a very affable person as you know and we think there may be more he can yet offer to Sunderland.
“We hope that he sees it that way, but you know again we worried about him for a few months.”