SUNDERLAND’S summer overhaul has continued with a move for Lazio’s highly-rated defender Modibo Diakité.
Sunderland agreed a deal with the centre-back yesterday – and he will sign a long-term contract on July 1.
The Journal understands deals have also been sealed for Maritimo defender Valentin Roberge and FC Basel’s Adilson Cabral – and other free agents are also in the pipeline.
France-born Diakité (pictured left), 26, has spent all of his career in Italy, having started with Pescara before spending the past seven seasons with Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio’s former club Lazio.
His capture is the latest in Di Canio’s Black Cats revolution, which is gathering pace as the Italian makes early moves to re-shape his squad for next season ahead of the squad’s return to training in mid-July.
The Wearsiders are also tracking Celtic striker Gary Hooper – and have ear-marked Fraser Forster as a possible replacement for Simon Mignolet. Sunderland are looking to sign two forwards this summer and have an interest in Hooper, who is also a target for Norwich and Hull City.
Celtic are aware that they face losing some of their brightest assets and Hooper, who is rated at around £5million by
the Glasgow giants, is one of the striking possibilities being explored by Sunderland.
Although Di Canio’s early targets have been out-of-contract and based overseas there is understood to be a transfer budget available to the Italian, who wants to completely refresh his striking options.
He is ready to sell Danny Graham and Connor Wickham and Hooper could add firepower to his remodelled strike-force.
The link with Forster also has credence. The Journal understands the Black Cats have drawn up a contingency plan if they lose player-of-the-season Simon Mignolet over the summer and it involves a move for Celtic’s former Newcastle goalkeeper.
With Forster understood to be desperate to return to England to further his international ambitions, it looks certain that he will be leaving the Glasgow giants with Neil Lennon’s blessing.
But he is prepared to bide his time ahead of a summer which is sure to see plenty of movement in the goalkeeper department.
Sunderland are hopeful that Mignolet will commit to the club over the summer and have been impressed by his level-headed approach to the very real interest that is emanating from Liverpool and Arsenal.
His agents have flown over to England in recent months to begin negotiations on a contract extension, but nothing is signed yet – and it may even hinge on a release clause that would allow him to talk to Champions League clubs in future transfer windows. In the meantime it has emerged that Sunderland’s Plan B revolves around pursuing Forster, with sources in Scotland suggesting that the player’s representatives have made aware of interest from Wearside.
A valuation of £6million would allow Sunderland to bank a considerable profit if Mignolet did look for a move, while also getting a young goalkeeper with England credentials.
The Black Cats are moving quickly to strengthen a squad that Paolo Di Canio believes is not fit for purpose, and have already virtually tied up deals for Cabral, Roberge and Le Havre midfielder El-Hadji Ba.
It emerged from Portugal yesterday that Roberge turned down interest from Valencia and Marseille to sign for Sunderland. They are understood to have an interest in Andreas Weimann of Aston Villa and Vitesse Arnhem’s Ivory Coast striker Wilfried Bony. The emphasis on Continental targets is a reflection of a new recruitment policy that is sure to be followed up by new chief scout Valentino Angeloni, who is set to join Sunderland from Inter Milan over the summer.
He will be given the title “technical director” and has been recruited by Ellis Short to reprise the success he had at Udinese in signing up young players.
Angeloni made a name for himself at Udinese on a limited budget, shaping the careers of the likes of Asamoah Gyan, David Pizzarro, Sulley Muntari and Alexis Sanchez.
All went on to earn big-money moves and bank Udinese considerable profit. Although Short does not want Sunderland to become a finishing school for bigger clubs, he is intent on making the club more self-sufficient after seeing big money wasted on players who have become a burden on the wage bill or have had to be moved on.